Well, the moderates reached a "deal" in the Senate to avoid the nuclear option. From what I've seen of the deal, it looks like we are now on the path to disaster when it comes to the next Supreme Court appointment.
The Wingnuttia blogs are screaming the deal is a disaster and somehow the Democrats walked away with the Big Prize. As usual, they appear to have gotten it wrong. The hysterics on their side is the result of two (two out of over 200) nominees being sacrificed.
In return, they get Owen, Brown, and Pryor confirmed. Much is made of the fact they do not have to be confirmed, but no Republican is going to vote against these nominees no matter how egregious their record.
So two of the worst nominees in history, with bench records of supporting Enron, hatred of labor, anti-choice, and virulently anti-middle-class are now going to be given lifetime appointments to the courts of appeal. Here they will enact right-wing-activist judicial laws, just as they have attempted to do their entire careers. (Maybe Owen should be excepted here; her biggest fault is being a judicial infant in terms of experience. The Christocrats have put a t-baller in the major leagues.)
What do the Democrats get in return? A promise that the nuclear option, an option that requires the Republicans to break Senate rules to enact, will not be implemented as long as the Democrats self-censor on future nominations.
Rove must have creamed his shorts when this deal was inked. The plan is in motion.
The Dems seems to have some sort of hideously naive belief that suddenly, their Republican "moderate" counterparts have discovered principle and will go along with Dems in opposing bringing 'Nuttia nominations to the Senate floor.
Where does this belief come from? There isn't a shred of evidence that one of these Senators has the balls to stand up and be the guy who goes against the Cheney-Rove judicial appointment in committee.
So the short-term result is: the worst of Bush's nominees get through immediately, and two are probably toast. I could possibly stomach this if it guaranteed the Supreme Court nomination was someone with a hint of legitimacy or at least free of political hack status.
But there is no reason that Rove cannot pick another nut for the Supreme Court. The Democrats have signed a paper saying they will only filibuster under "extreme circumstances." If they filibuster, the theocons will beat them bloody with this document, wailing that they are no-good, dirty-dog liars; because obviously this nomination is not an extreme one.
And in the public's mind, they will be right.
Why? Because the bar is now set, that extreme can only mean a nominee that is significantly worse than Owen or Brown. The entire Democratic filibuster justification so far has been that these seven nominees are appalling. Reasonable people find it hard to disagree with that, once they read the records.
However, Dems have now agreed to let Owen and Brown be confirmed. This will absolutely be portrayed by the fundamentalists that the Dems finally admitted that Owen and Brown are qualified and should be appointed. Why else would they agree to this?
So the bar for appointment has been lowered mightily. But it doesn't stop there. To be an "extraordinary circumstance," the next set of nominees must be extraordinarily worse than the corporatist Brown. Imagine Brown herself on SCOTUS. Now imagine someone only slightly worse. It's like imagining the difference between Dubya as President (evil but stupid), only to find Rove is running the show (evil genius).
So here we are. The last time the Republicans had a free shot at the Supreme Court, after they were thwarted in their attempt to appoint "Watergate" Bork; we got Clarence Thomas. The most uninpsired, intellectually dull appointment in modern times. He's a terrible justice, with absolutely no legal opinions of his own. His entire career will be nothing more than "me, too!" chiming in with Scalia.
Thanks to this agreement, the next appointment at best will be another Clarence Thomas. You must hope for that. Because the Rove plan is already set in motion, and he envisions a brilliant, activist, corporatist judge that will make Bush v. Gore look like a Green Party press release.