There still seems to be a lot of confusion over what actually happened yesterday and what it means. It's fine that a lot of people on the left don't like the compromise - I'll admit when I first heard about it, I thought it sounded shitty. But when I actually looked at the deal, I realized why it's a big win for the Democrats, and even more crucially, a big shitburger for the Republicans to eat.
We are certainly all entitled to our opinions about the value of the compromise. But we should all be able to agree on the basic facts of the deal. Here they are:
The reason there were originally 12 Senators involved is because the Magic Number for the Democrats in this deal was 6. That's the number of Republicans they needed to pick off in order to prevent a 50-50 tie (with Cheney the tiebreaker) on the Nuclear Option. The final two were added, presumably, because there was one extra guy in each party that just really wanted in for his own reasons.
The Republicans needed 5 Democrats to break cloture on the stalled nominees. So with 7 Republicans agreeing not to Nuke the Filibuster, and 7 Democrats agreeing to break cloture on the three nominees covered by the agreement, these 14 Senators now control, for practical purposes, what happens with all future Bush judicial nominees.
Let's look at what happens with the next Bush nomination. There are basically three possibilities.
Possibility 1 - The 7 Democrats decide together that the nominee is not extraordinarily bad. Thus according to the agreement they will sign a cloture petition if the Dem leadership decides to filibuster. Crisis averted.
Possibility 2 - At least 3 of the 7 Democrats decide together that the nominee IS extraordinarily bad, and worth filibustering. Thus they will join a Democratic filibuster and not sign a cloture petition. So the Dems notify the 7 Republicans of this, and the 7 Republicans meet to decide whether, in their view, this constitutes an abuse of the filibuster. They decide it doesn't, and that they will vote against the nuclear option (at least six of the seven have to agree to this.) Crisis averted.
Possibility 3 - The 7 Democrats join a filibuster, and the 7 Republicans decide to vote for the nuclear option.
So you can see now that if Frist wants to bring about the Nuclear Option Showdown, he needs to find a nominee who is bad enough that the 7 Dems will filibuster, but not so bad that the 7 Republicans will vote against going Nuclear.
You'll notice I didn't mention the deal itself, with three judges getting through and two (really seven, since five have already gone down to Dem filibusters) getting deep-sixed. That's because that aspect of the deal is so minor it's hardly worth talking about.
Those on the left dissatisfied with the deal seem to be focusing on two things - the three judges who got through, and the question of "who decides" what constitutes an extraordinary circumstance.
On the first point, folks are welcome to their opinion that these particular three judges pose a big enough threat to the republic that they shouldn't have been let through. On the second, people just don't seem to understand the nature of the deal. The 7 Democrats on the compromise committee decide. Period.