Reid Won't Proceed With 'Nuclear Option'

Senators strike agreement to avoid nuclear option.

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Nothing gets the Senate moving like a deadline.

After nearly four hours of debate Monday, it appeared the Senate was headed to vote for a rules change with a simple majority that would stop lawmakers from being able to filibuster presidential appointees.

With Vice President Joe Biden presiding over the Senate Tuesday, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., took to the floor and made an announcement: the so-called "nuclear option," the ability of the Senate to change the rules with a simple majority, wouldn't happen.

Instead, he announced a deal had been struck by a bipartisan group of lawmakers to confirm five of the seven presidential nominees who had been stalled in the Senate. The Republicans had asked only that the president find two new National Labor Review Board nominees.

[READ: Senators Squabble Over 'Nuclear Option']

Veteran senators said they weren't surprised the 'nuclear option' was avoided with an 11th hour negotiation, saying that agreeing to a last-minute deal is how Congress now functions.

"This place is run by deadlines. The world is run on deadlines," says Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. "And we are no different here."

The deal was struck just minutes before senators had to vote to proceed on the nomination of Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It staves off a procedural maneuver that many senators argued could have laid the groundwork for the majority party in the Senate to limit the power of the minority in the future.

 

Senators on both sides of the aisle applauded the leadership's effort to find common ground.

"It is critically important for preserving the traditions of the Senate and respect for minority rule, and I am delighted that a compromised has been reached," says Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Sen. Carl Levin. D-Mich., who voiced a strong opposition to changing the Senate rules, said he was relieved that he would not have to vote against his own leader to preserve the filibuster.

[ALSO: Democrats March Closer to Changing Rules of the Senate]

"We worked very hard to get [a deal] struck," Levin says. "As of this morning, I thought there was going to have to be a vote, and I would have voted, I am afraid, against my own leader."

Some senators went as far as to suggest that the successful negotiations might empower colleagues to work together in a more bipartisan way on other future issues, like the budget.

"It was probably the hardest thing I have been involved in," says Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., "Now that we have done the immigration bill, maybe we can show some more momentum toward bipartisanship.There is no doubt that people are hardening their positions, but I hope this can bring some momentum to future compromise."

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