This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) decided to put judicial nominations on the front-burner, much to the chagrin of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has made obstructionism one of his top priorities. Reid played some procedural hardball, and as of this afternoon, it's paid off.
To briefly recap, Reid wanted to move 17 stalled, non-controversial judicial nominees -- and said everything else, including action on the poorly-named "JOBS Act" -- would have to wait. If the Senate operated the way it used to, the confirmation votes on the nominees could be dealt with in an afternoon, and the chamber could move on. If Republicans wanted to obstruct, the chamber would get bogged down for several weeks.
The decision, Reid said, would be up to the GOP.
Today, the two Senate leaders struck a deal.
Democratic aides said senators would vote to confirm 12 federal district court nominees and two circuit court picks by May and move next to a vote on a bipartisan jobs bill that passed overwhelmingly last week by the House with White House support.
Both sides had plausible claims to victory. Dems are getting 14 confirmation votes, and are allowing progressive on a small-businesses bill that they generally like anyway. Republicans lowered the number of judges from 17 to 14, and moved the legislation ahead of the judicial nominees on the calendar.
The larger point, though, is that Reid was able to generate some progress by picking a fight. Had the Majority Leader not forced the issue on Monday, these 14 judges probably wouldn't be on track for confirmation anytime soon.