The Senate has averted a judicial standoff for now.
On Monday Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced that he's invoking cloture to confirm numerous noncontroversial court nominees, a move designed to break a Republican filibuster.
"There are judges on this list go back to November of last year. Not because we couldn't have done it. These could be confirmed in a matter of minutes. The votes should be routine," Reid said on Monday, blasting Republicans for creating a "judicial emergency" by holding up many of President Obama's judicial nominations.
Republicans said Democrats have said the Senate should be focused on job-creating measures, and have urged Reid all week to move to the jobs bill already passed by the House, rather than spend time right now on the nominations.
Today, the Senate moved to do just that.
Instead of the Senate enduring the scheduled 17 back-to-back votes to fill the vacant judgeships, a deal was cut between the Senate leaders of both parties to drop the cloture motions on the nominations now and to speed up the nominations process overall.
Republicans agreed to move on 14 of the 17 judges, 12 federal district court and two appellate court nominees, in the coming weeks - two a week by May 7. And Democrats agreed that they will now start debate on the House-passed small business jobs bill .
"We have come to an agreement and hopefully it will set the ball rolling on much smoother approvals of judicial nominees in the future with less altercation, more comity and actually filling the bench more quickly," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor as the deal was announced and the cloture vote was dropped.
The White House even entered into the fray this week, coming out Tuesday in support of Reid's move to force Senate Republicans to vote on the president's halted nominees.
"What the president is really asking - what he's demanding - is that the Senate do its job on behalf of the American people," White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler told reporters Tuesday. "There are three branches of government in our constitutional system, and the executive branch and the Congress have responsibility to ensure that the third branch of government, the judiciary, can function."