A top Senate Republican said intra-party tension is higher than ever in Congress, where conservatives battling with the GOP leadership has public and private infighting.

"It's probably more tension than I've seen in a long time," Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said during an interview on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers," which airs on Sunday.

Lawmakers on the Republican side have been battling with each other in both chambers.

In the Senate, a fight over amendments to a highway funding bill spilled onto the floor earlier this month when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, accused Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., of lying to him. McConnell later accused a staffer for conservative Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, of trying to convince outside conservative organizations to pressure lawmakers to take up an amendment to defund Planned Parenthood.

Shelby, 81, has served in Congress since 1979 and in the Senate since 1987.

"I would say there is a lot of tension in the Senate and probably the House right now and there is some tension in our caucus, too," Shelby, who is running for a sixth Senate term in 2016, said.

Shelby said former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, "ran the Senate well," adding, "people didn't surprise each other. I don't recall senators on either side attacking each other."

Shelby blamed the today's divisive Senate atmosphere on presidential politics. Three Republican senators, including Cruz, are running for the Republican presidential nomination.

"They want things changed immediately," Shelby said of his younger Republican colleagues. "People come to the Senate sometimes and they want to run the Senate. It doesn't work that way. ... It's a lot of tradition here."