Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reached an agreement with Senate Republicans to bring 7 of President Obama's nominees to the floor in exchange for his not reforming the filibuster - the so-called nuclear option.
Senate Democrats backed away on Tuesday from a possible historic crackdown on filibusters in exchange for a Republican commitment not to use the procedural hurdles to stop some of President Barack Obama's long-stalled nominations.
The bipartisan agreement, reached after days of talks and jockeying for political position, will allow Obama to fill out his second-term team with top administrators overseeing efforts to protect workers, consumers and the environment.
It will also permit Republicans to retain their right to stop future nominees with filibusters, which have been used for years by the Senate's minority party against the majority.
"They (Republicans) are not sacrificing their right to filibuster, and we for damn sure aren't sacrificing our right to change the rules" to ban them, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, declared after tense negotiations.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said, "Put this down as progress in the right direction."
Obama praised the compromise, saying in a statement, "I'm pleased that the Senate took action today to move forward on the nominees who have waited far too long for a vote."
But it was unclear how much progress there was, and when another partisan fight would break out in the highly divided and often gridlocked Senate.
Republican Senator John McCain, who helped negotiate the deal, said, "People walked to the edge of the abyss and then we walked back."
"I don't know that this is going to come again anytime soon. It may, depending on what goes on in the Senate," said McCain.
The first concrete sign of agreement came when the Senate, on a vote of 71-29, with 17 Republicans joining all 52 Democrats and two independents, cleared the way for an up-or-down vote on Obama's choice of Richard Cordray to serve as director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.
A few hours later, the Senate confirmed Cordray by 66-34, ending Republican vows to oppose him until structural changes were made in the agency that was created in 2011 to crack down on Wall Street abuses and protect consumers from financial scams.
As part of the agreement, Democrats yielded to Republican demands that Obama withdraw two nominees to the National Labor Relations Board and offer new ones. The NLRB oversees union elections and enforces labor laws.
The GOP didn't give up much. They probably wouldn't have been able to tinker with the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau given the Democrats' reluctance. And they did get Obama to withdraw two of the four nominees he illegally made to the NLRB.
Plus, they made no guarantees about the future. Reid will pocket the nuclear option for now, but it may come roaring back the next cabinet appointment that Republicans will almost surely try and block.