Corker takes on Cruz as GOP feuding moves to the Senate floor

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Feuding in the Republican Conference moved to the Senate floor Thursday as Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) accused two colleagues of risking a government shutdown as a publicity stunt.

“The reason you don’t want to send a bill over to the House, who could possibly put in place some very good policies for us here, is that you want the American people and the outside groups that you’ve been in contact with to be able to watch us tomorrow,” Corker said to Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), two Tea Party-affiliated lawmakers.

Corker accused Cruz and Lee of playing to the cameras after Lee balked at a request to accelerate the process for considering a stopgap spending bill that also would defund ObamaCare.

Cruz and Lee objected to ending debate on the bill because it would allow Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to strip the ObamaCare language with a simple majority vote.

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Corker argued for holding the vote Thursday evening so that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) would have more time to respond to the Senate action. Boehner said earlier in the day that the House would not accept a government funding resolution without language defunding the Affordable Care Act.

“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 and actually have a body that has a majority of Republicans to be able to react and send back something of good policy?” Corker asked.

Andy Roth, the vice president of government affairs at Club for Growth, immediately blasted Corker for taking on Cruz.

“Sen. Corker effectively became a Democrat just now on the Senate floor,” he tweeted.

The Club for Growth has a long track record of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars against Republican incumbents it deems insufficiently conservative.

The Senate Democratic war room immediately released a transcript of the floor exchange, highlighting Corker’s comments.

Corker questioned Cruz’s and Lee’s motives by noting they voted to end debate on proceeding to the stopgap after speaking for 21 hours on the Senate floor in protest of the healthcare reform law and Reid’s plans to move the spending legislation.

A visibly irritated Cruz said he could not believe his ears.

“He must have made a misstatement when he moments ago suggested that those of us who participated in the filibuster the other day somehow changed our position,” he fumed. “The reason I know the senator from Tennessee is mistaken is because during the course of that filibuster, I explicitly stated I support the motion to proceed.”

Cruz said he stated last week that he would support the first vote on ending debate to proceed to the bill.

Cruz’s office released a statement defending his insistence on voting Friday midday instead of Thursday evening.

“Sen. Reid asked to waive the Senate rules to allow the vote to be moved to Thursday night, but it is better that the debate play out in the full light of day so the American people know exactly what is happening,” said Sean Rushton, Cruz’s communications director. “America will be watching closely which senators vote to allow Democrats to fully fund Obamacare, and the vote should be carried out in the open for all to see."

Reid has scheduled four votes beginning Friday at 12:30 p.m.

One is on ending debate on the stopgap; the second is on waiving a budgetary objection to its funding level, which exceeds the Budget Control Act; the third is on an amendment stripping the language to defund ObamaCare; and the fourth is on final passage.

— This story was posted at 5:04 p.m. and updated at 6:24 p.m.