Why Senate Democrats decided not to go nuclear

Updated

Democratic Senator Harry Reid of Nevada has officially taken his finger off the nuclear trigger. After weeks of threatening to use the so-called nuclear option—a move that would eliminate the filibuster of Presidential nominees—Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have reached a deal to avoid going nuclear.

Nearly an hour after Reid announced the tentative compromise, the Senate voted to end debate on the nomination of Richard Cordray, President Obama’s nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. For the record, Cordray has waited 730 days to be confirmed—that’s nearly two years.

The final details of the deal are still being negotiated, but outlines of the compromise seem to show that Reid will get the votes he wants on five of the seven nominations he’s scheduled for cloture vote. The deal also means that Reid will have to drop two nominees, Richard Griffin and Sharon Block, for the National Labor Relations Board, because Republicans objected to them being nominated as recess appointments.

But the details of the deal aren’t nearly as interesting as why they may have reached the deal in the first place.

Instead of pulling the nuclear trigger on the filibuster, it’s likely that Senate Democrats ultimately made the compromise because of their fear of being in the minority in the not-so-distant future. Ever since Montana’s former Democratic Governer Brian Schweitzer announced his decision not to run for his state’s open Senate seat, the odds of Republicans taking back the Senate started looking a lot better.

The National Journal reports that “for the first time this year, Republican strategists believe they’re within striking distance of taking back the Senate.” And the New York Times’  Nate Silver is calling the Senate a “tossup” in 2014, predicting that “Republicans might now be close to even-money to win control of the chamber after next year’s elections.”

Why Senate Democrats decided not to go nuclear

Updated