McConnell and [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid first met on Monday afternoon in an unscheduled meeting about two hours after McCain sat with the majority leader. "Mitch, I know you came to see me, but let me just start off by telling you: I have the votes," Reid told McConnell, according to an aide Reid briefed immediately after. "Say whatever you want, but I have the votes."McConnell held no cards. Reid had the votes. And THIS was the offer? That he would allow votes on nominees he'd held up for years, but he'd get to do it all over again starting tomorrow with new nominations? After years of Reid caving on the issue, perhaps McConnell thought history would repeat itself. But he clearly miscalculated badly—so much so that his own caucus began deserting him.
"Here's my offer," McConnell responded. "You'll get all your nominees, but you have to agree that there'll be no more rules changes."
McCain was there, according to several sources who spoke about private, behind-the-scenes talks on the condition of anonymity, because he and and several other Republicans grew fed up with their own side's stalling tactics and went around McConnell (R-Ky.) to cut the deal with Reid and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), avoiding a "nuclear option" rules change to pass the nominees.The situation is so bad, actually, that McConnell's ability to obstruct has been permanently compromised.
"[McConnell] has essentially now been cut out of the process on nominees," the Democratic aide said. "John McCain is now the minority leader on nominations."Interesting observation—McCain now appears to control a number of Republicans willing to buck leadership on the filibustering of administration nominees. Whether that influence extends to judicial nominees or legislation remains to be seen (though with the GOP House, legislation is less relevant). But for now, it appears that Reid will be negotiating with McCain on confirmation votes.
And the best part of this? Reid still has the votes for a limited repeal of the filibuster, leverage that will only increase in October when New Jersey gets its Democratic senator back.