Sen. Bob Corker lit into Majority Leader Harry Reid Thursday morning, at one point comparing the Nevada Democrat's leadership of the Senate to the rule of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Tennessee Republican, who is the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he supports finding a way forward on filling noncontroversial ambassadorial nominations, but he said he understands why Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other Republicans would take advantage of Senate rules in the aftermath of the "nuclear" option .
“If you allow people to just run roughshod over you — just like we're seeing right now with Putin in Russia right?” Corker said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "He's getting no pushback from the United States so, you know, why not do the things that I'm doing? If you don't have any pushback, then obviously people will see a way to do even more of those things down the road.”
Corker has been something of a changed man since Reid used the procedural device known as the nuclear option to set a new precedent last November allowing Democrats to break potential filibusters of almost all nominees without needing 60 votes.
"When that happened, I finally decided after seven years, ... I've come to the conclusion that the United States Senate will not ever function in an appropriate way with the leadership that we now have in place," Corker said, banging the table. "It's not going to."
Corker said he had never made efforts of the same scale on behalf of the Republican campaign apparatus.
"I'm going to do everything I can. This last recess, I spent a week traveling the country on behalf of the [National Republican Senatorial Committee]," Corker said. "Because I want to see the Senate function again. I want to see us debate things. I want to see us legislate."
He also said he understood the efforts by fellow Republicans to attach enhanced Iran sanctions to every bill moving through the Senate.
"We have something occurring, and yet the United States Senate is kept from debating that issue," Corker said.
"Look, if the president doesn't like what the Senate, what the House of Representatives has to say on Iran, he can veto it," Corker said. "I don't understand, I don't."
Reid and the Obama administration have argued that even a Senate floor vote on the Iran sanctions measure could derail international talks with the Iranians.
The latest venue for the Iran debate is a veterans policy bill that's facing procedural votes Thursday afternoon . Reid said that he was willing to consider relevant amendments.
"Democrats were even willing to work with our Republican colleagues to consider relevant amendments to this legislation," Reid said in a floor statement. "So it was disappointing — if not surprising — when Republicans almost immediately injected partisan politics into a debate over a bill that should be bipartisan — insisting on an unrelated amendment on Iran that they knew could derail the veterans' bill."
"The idea of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is so unthinkable that Democrats and Republicans have always worked together on this policy. Unfortunately, it seems Republicans are trying to erase that history and politicize an issue that has historically been above partisanship," Reid said.
Corker seemed to suggest the only way to break the Senate's logjam would be booting Reid from the majority leader's suite.
"It's unfortunate. Hopefully at some point we'll return to the rules that have been long established," Corker said. "I believe that if Leader McConnell is the majority leader after this session is over, you're going to see how people are able to use the rules that we've had for years to make the Senate work."
Corker added that could translate to more time in Washington: "It does mean you don't work just three days a week."