From Roll Call today:
A bipartisan coalition of Senators believe it is close to a deal that would avert the looming showdown between Republicans and Democrats over judicial filibusters.
The potential deal, spearheaded by Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), would involve at least a half-dozen Senators from each party signing a letter or memorandum of understanding that signals how they would proceed to vote on all matters related to judicial nominations.
The six Senate Republicans would commit to opposing the so-called nuclear option to end judicial filibusters, which would leave GOP leaders short of the 50 votes they need to execute the parliamentary move to abolish the procedure.
In exchange, the six Senate Democrats would pledge to allow votes on four of the seven circuit court nominees who were already filibustered in the 108th Congress and have been renominated.
Perhaps more importantly, the six Democrats would pledge to vote for cloture to end filibuster attempts on all other judicial nominees named by President Bush, including Supreme Court picks, except in “extreme circumstances,” according to a senior aide familiar with the discussions.
The aide familiar with the discussions declined to say which four circuit court nominees would be approved.
“It’s very close,” the aide said of the deal, requesting anonymity.
The precarious deal — which would last at least through the 2006 elections — still hasn’t been finalized, and neither side would reveal who was a party to it.
The agreement would not require a single vote to be cast for it to be executed. As long as each side has at least six Senators willing to uphold it, Senate Republicans would be unable to carry out the nuclear option and Senate Democrats would be unable to execute a successful filibuster.
If Frist wanted to, he could still force a vote on the parliamentary move to end the filibuster — something he is widely expected to do sometime this month — but it would face certain defeat if the six Republicans held strong.
Nelson and Lott were both traveling late last week and were not available to comment on the potential deal.
Another moment when one wonders what being in the majority is actually good for. If this deal goes through, it’s essentially a bipartisan agreement to allow Democrats to continue to unfairly block three nominees–probably Bill Pryor, Priscilla Owen, Brett Kavanaugh/Janice Rogers Brown. Some deal.