Senate leaders and White House officials were engaged Monday evening in 11th-hour negotiations to avert a partisan, Democratic threat to curtail the Republicans' ability to filibuster President Obama's nominees.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to comment on his way out of Majority Leader Harry Reid office. The Kentucky Republican spent an hour with Reid, D-Nev., and was joined in the majority leaders' Capitol suite by White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.
McConnell said he might comment following the scheduled 6 p.m. closed-door meeting of senators called in hopes of reaching a compromise on Obama's nominees and prevent Reid from using the so-called "nuclear option" to change the Senate rules and end the minority party's ability to filibuster non-judicial, executive branch nominees.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a leading negotiator in the search for middle ground, said compromise is possible though far from certain, and that any deal would revolve around Democratic demands to have Obama nominees confirmed to the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
"We've shaped a compromise, but we don't know if Sen. Reid will buy it or not," McCain said.
McCain said the senators informally involved in compromise negotiations include Democratic Sens. Carl Levin, of Michigan; and Charles Schumer, of New York; and Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina; Susan Collins, of Maine; Roger Wicker, of Mississippi; John Hoeven, of North Dakota and Bob Corker, of Tennessee.
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., who supports relaxing the filibuster rules generally, suggested that his fellow Democrats might be satisfied and give Reid the green light to avoid the nuclear option if Republicans drop their filibuster of Obama's nominees to the consumer and labor boards.
Republicans are particularly opposed to the president's labor board nominees because he appointed them during a congressional recess to sidestep a GOP filibuster, though a court later found the appointments unconstitutional. Democrats oppose replacing the nominees because it could take months to search, vet and confirm new candidates.
"I believe we should vote these folks in, either with an agreement or change the precedent and vote them in," Udall said.