Senators filed out of a closed-door, bipartisan meeting on Capitol Hill Monday night, relieved to have had a rare opportunity to air grievances with their fellow senators, but not optimistic that the rules of their chamber could be changing forever.
The Senate's leadership announced late Monday it was still clamoring for a solution that would keep Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., from using a simple majority to change the rules of the Senate and keep the minority from filibustering executive nominees.
The so-called nuclear option Reid is considering is a procedural maneuver that would limit the power of the filibuster and in this case stop senators from being able to hold up nominations on presidential appointees.
The Republicans threatened a similar rules change in 2005 to stop Democrats from filibustering judicial nominees, but came to an agreement at the last minute to keep the Senate rules in place.
"There isn't a solution on the table per say, but there is a willingness to discuss," said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. "What we are trying to get to is something people can agree on in a bipartisan way."
Veterans of the Senate including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who worked together to negotiate a bipartisan immigration deal for the Senate last month, were expected to work alongside leadership to find a solution before the Tuesday afternoon votes on seven executive nominees.
Tuesday, Reid still plans to bring seven presidential nominees to the floor for a vote. The Senate will vote on Richard Griffin, Sharon Block and Mark Pearce, nominees to the National Labor Relations Board; Richard Cordray to be the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; Fred Hochberg to be the president of the Export-Import Bank; Thomas Perez to be the secretary of labor; and Gina McCarthy to be the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
While senators in the meeting confirmed Republicans had urged Democrats to bring just a few of the nominees up for a vote Tuesday, a deal had yet to be struck. And some were worried the meeting had come too late, after the clock had already run out.
"It was a good meeting. It really was. I think everyone in there came away with a better appreciation for how the other side feels. Unfortunately there are too few opportunities for this kind of dialogue," said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.
Many Republicans had lost hope that leadership would find common ground before the morning.
"I don't feel very good to tell you the truth. I am glad we had the meeting. I appreciate it, but there are too many senators who don't understand the danger of the precedent of a Senate that can change the [rules] any time it wants to do anything it wants to," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. "It might be a Democratic train going through the Senate now, but a year and a half from now, it might be the tea party express and some of them might not like that."