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Senate reaches deal to avoid filibuster rule change

Republicans will allow some of the stalled nominations to reach a vote

The New York Times and others are reporting that a deal has been reached to end the latest crisis over filibusters and the “nuclear option.”

Faced with the likely prospect that Democrats would use a majority vote (rather than the usual two-thirds vote) to change the rules governing the filibuster (at least for executive branch nominations) Republicans have reportedly agreed to allow some of the stalled nominations to go forward.

First up will be the nomination of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. That one was special because Republicans were holding up the nomination not over any objections to Cordray but in hopes of negotiating changes in the law that established the bureau.

This leaves the larger, long-running argument over the filibuster rule in a strange place. The filibuster is a much-diminished weapon for the minority to use in blocking action if the majority can threaten to change the rule with a majority vote. Unless the overall use of the filibuster declines substantially, it seems only a matter of time before we get to this point again.