Getting closer but still stuck

Senators fail to reach an agreement on judicial nominations but agree to meet again.

Published May 19, 2005 5:04PM (EDT)

The latest meeting among moderates working to avert the nuclear option has just ended -- without an agreement but with some level of optimism that one could be near.

Senators leaving the meeting universally spoke of the good will of their colleagues, and senators from both sides said the negotiations over the last several days have helped build a level of trust among the usually warring parties.

As he walked out of the meeting, Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar said he couldn't tell whether the group was 10 percent or 70 percent done in getting a deal. We still have some sticking points, Salazar said. We're getting closer, but we do still have some sticking points. We're just not quite at the point where we can all say yes. Joe Lieberman said he thought there was still plenty of times for the parties to reach middle ground.

The sticking point now seems to be what level of guarantee Republicans will have to give about resisting a renewed drive for the nuclear option sometime down the road. Democrat Ben Nelson confirmed that the participants have reached a general agreement on which currently blocked judges are going to get floor votes, and he suggested that Republicans have achieved a comfort level with Democrats' assurances that they won't filibuster future Bush nominees except in extraordinary circumstances. But, Nelson said, nothing is settled until the entire agreement is agreed to.

The group, which seems to grow with each meeting, will meet again this afternoon, senators said.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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