WASHINGTON -- Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) are risking a government shutdown because they want their followers to see them on TV, a fellow Republican charged in a remarkable reprimand on the Senate floor Thursday.
"I'm understanding the reason we're waiting is that y’all have sent out releases and emails and you want everybody to be able to watch," Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said after Cruz and Lee objected to a request from Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to speed up the process of passing a bill to keep the government open.
"It just doesn't seem to me that that's in our nation's interest," he added. "Nor is it, candidly, in the interest of those who want to see good policy on the conservative side come out of the [continuing resolution]."
The government will run out of funding after Monday unless Congress can craft legislation to keep things running. The House passed a bill last week that only funds the government if the Democrats and President Barack Obama agree to defund Obamacare.
The Senate is working on the measure, but under Senate rules, the process can take days unless all the senators consent to move things along. Lee and Cruz already have bogged things down with Cruz's epic 21-hour floor speech Tuesday and Wednesday.
"Is it more important to the senator from Texas and the senator from Utah that the people around the country watch this vote, or is it more important to us that we have a good policy outcome from our standpoint?" Corker said.
The Tennessean, who made his comments in a polite, congenial tone, followed Reid, who was visibly irritated with the two renegade tea party lawmakers.
Reid was hoping they would let him move a "cloture" vote -- which requires the backing of 60 senators -- ending debate as of Thursday evening, saving a day in the process. Lee objected.
"This is an effort to stall, and I don't know why … every minute that goes by is a minute closer to a government shutdown," Reid said. "Is this some kind of a subterfuge to close the government?"
Corker also schooled Cruz on Senate procedure. Cruz and Lee say they are trying to block the cloture vote because after that Reid will be able to move an amendment to strip the Obamacare defunding from the measure, and pass it with a simple majority. So the senators contend that voting to proceed on the bill that defunds Obamacare is actually voting to fund Obamacare.
But Corker noted that the specific cloture vote is to debate the House bill, which he said he supports. House leaders are surely aware of the Senate process, he said, suggesting they knew that Democrats would change their bill -- but they expected to get it back, not that it would be bottled up.
Before yielding the floor, Corker also made it clear that Cruz and Lee were acting on their own.
"It's not the Republican side that's asking to stall. We only have two Republican senators that are wanting to push this off," he said. "I don't want that to be mischaracterized … I know all Republicans other than two would actually like to give the House the opportunity to respond in an appropriate way."
Cruz and Lee were apparently upset by Corker's blunt charges, according to reporters who spoke to them leaving the chamber: