Reid and McConnell have disagreed about precisely when he should be officially confirmed. Reid wanted the vote this week. McConnell wanted to wait three business days—not a huge delay in most circumstances, but with the impending Memorial Day break it would’ve kicked the confirmation into early June.That part of the story is that McConnell takes Reid's threat to change the Senate rules over executive nominations seriously this time. That in turn indicates that he's concerned Reid might actually have enough Democrats on board to do it. Back in January, when a few Senate Dems were publicly undermining the ambitious reform plan from Sens. Harkin, Merkley and Udall, McConnell was largely quiet. He wasn't worried. Now he is. And he's giving Reid less ammunition to use to convince hold-out Democrats that they've got to use the nuclear option to get Obama's nominations confirmed.
So this week, Reid used the Senate rules to provoke a confrontation: Technically he filed cloture on Srinivasan’s nomination, guaranteeing him at least a test vote this week. More meaningfully, he forced McConnell to choose between sustaining a filibuster against Srinivasan through early June (a move that would have helped Reid build his case for changing the rules this summer) and agreeing to a confirmation vote now (effectively caving).
McConnell caved Thursday morning on the Senate floor. A small cave. But a cave nonetheless. Srinivasan will be confirmed Thursday afternoon. But the “cave” is only a small part of the story.
But that still leaves the executive nominations of Richard Corday—which 43 Republican senators have vowed in writing to block—Elizabeth McCarthy, and Thomas Perez hanging out there, to be decided in July. With the stink Republicans have raised over these nominations, it's hard to imagine McConnell caving again.
We can't let Reid and the Democrats be complacent over this one vote. So we've got two jobs: getting Democrats on board with the nuclear option and keeping the momentum for reform going until July.