Painful to watch, just because seeing them go round in circles like this is emblematic of where the wider intraparty debate is right now. Quickie background on what this is about: The anti-filibuster Republicans like Corker, Coburn, and McCain want to get the CR back to the House ASAP so that Boehner can set his own Plan B in motion. That’ll give House Republicans maximum time before the shutdown begins on Tuesday to make some kind of deal with Senate Democrats. Reid was willing to speed up the process so that the final vote on his clean CR, which would fund ObamaCare, was held tonight. But Cruz and Lee objected. Why hold a big vote late at night, under the public’s radar? Hold it tomorrow in the early afternoon when they’re paying attention for maximum accountability. Cruz’s spokesman issued this statement about it:

“The public understands that the key vote is final cloture on the bill, which will take place on Friday morning. 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. 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.”

In other words, says Corker, you guys would rather push back a vote you know you’re going to lose by 15 hours just to give yourselves a bigger grandstanding spotlight than get your defeat over with so that House Republicans have more time to craft an effective counterproposal. Theatrics over policy. That’s the core of his argument, although he touches on it only briefly; I think that, having just impugned Cruz’s and Lee’s motives in an unusually visible way, Corker realized he’d crossed a line and needed to retreat.

Most of the colloquy is thus spent with him playing dumb as to why Cruz would want to filibuster a bill from the House that defunds ObamaCare and then Cruz explaining for the benefit of the audience that a filibuster is the only way to stop Reid from stripping out the “defunding” language from that bill. Corker could have responded to that in various ways. E.g., why are we threatening to shut down the government to defund ObamaCare when a shutdown wouldn’t stop ObamaCare from being funded? Why is a man who spent 21 hours working his persuasive powers against ObamaCare afraid of letting red-state Democrats vote up-or-down on Reid’s clean CR? The GOP could win that outright with 51 votes, assuming Cruz and Lee can get just five Dems to join them. At the very least, it’s worth forcing those red-state Democratic incumbents to take a very risky vote in favor of funding the law, no? Also, won’t this set a precedent that a Democratic minority can and will use to stop Republican legislation — perhaps even an outright repeal of ObamaCare itself if/when Republicans have the votes to make that happen? None of that from Corker, though. He’d rather puzzle over why Cruz wants to filibuster his own party’s bill, even though everyone who’s been paying attention to this figured that out a week ago.

The cloture vote is set for 12:30 p.m. tomorrow. Three other votes, including the final vote on the bill, will follow. Click the image to watch.

bc2