Crisis averted. Seven Republicans and Seven Democrats brokered a deal (short PDF) averting the nuclear option. Three of the president's nominees will go to the floor (Brown, Owens, Pryor), two won't (Myers, Saad). The filibuster is not blocked in future cases and all parties pledge to vote against attempts to end it for the duration of the 109th Congress. Jeff Dubner is unhappy, but I don't really see why. The deal, crucially, says
"In light of the spirit and continuing commitments made in this agreement, we commit to oppose the rules change in the 109th Congress, which we understand to be any amendment or interpretation of the Rules of the Senate that would force a vote on a judicial nomination by means other than unanimous consent or rule XXII."
With these seven promising to vote against any more attempts to end the filibuster for the duration of this Congress, it seems like we got what we wanted -- the preservation of the filibuster for the Supreme Court nominee. It seems, too, that the right didn't get what they wanted -- the end of the filibuster before Rehnquist retires. So long as the question was appellate judges, few would see why it was such a big deal. A lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, however, is widely understood to matter, and trying to end the minority's options on that will prove significantly harder in the court of public opinion. Plus, the Republicans wanted this vote to happen and the Democrats didn't. That the vote was averted is, in the end, a defeat for them.
So I'm happy. Most of all because I think Democrats would've lost the fallout. Eliminating the judicial filibuster over some obscure judges just wouldn't, I fear, strike people as a big enough deal to shut down the Senate over. It may well be the principled move, but the idea of an up-or-down vote is intuitively appealing, and you can only grind government to a halt for so long before folks start getting pissed. Better yet, we can still hang this power grab on the Republicans' neck come 2006. As part of a wider argument about their abuses of power, it'll make perfect sense, and the fact that seven Republicans signed on to stop it will only strengthen our case. Plus, anything that makes James Dobson this angry is bound to leave me pleased:
This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats. Only three of President Bush’s nominees will be given the courtesy of an up-or-down vote, and it's business as usual for all the rest. The rules that blocked conservative nominees remain in effect, and nothing of significance has changed. Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist would never have served on the U. S. Supreme Court if this agreement had been in place during their confirmations. The unconstitutional filibuster survives in the arsenal of Senate liberals.
Crooks and Liars has more in the way of Republican reactions. They are not happy.
Update: Oh yeah. Lindsey Graham is apparently predicting one of the three judges promised an up-or-down vote will go down. Gentlemen's agreement, maybe?
Update 2: If nothing else, we've learned that senators have unreadable signatures. So far as I can tell from the document, here's who's on board:
Ben Nelson John McCain
Mike Dewine John Warner
Unreadable Robert Byrd
Susan Collins Mary Landrieu
Mark Pryor Olympia Snow
God Knows Ken Salazar
Lincoln Chafee A. Squiggle
Lincoln Chafee writes like a kid, Landrieu's got the best handwriting (followed by Collins and Snow, proving that women do indeed possess superior penmanship, maybe to make up for those inferior math and science skills [kidding!]), the majority seem to drop a number of letters from their names, and the senator on the lower right is clearly trying to hide his/her identity.