Washington (CNN) - A major standoff in the Senate over confirming federal judges fizzled Wednesday when Democratic and Republican leaders reached a last minute compromise.
The deal, which gave each side a partial victory, prevented what was likely to be another ugly episode of partisan politics from playing out on the Senate floor.
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At issue was the refusal by Republicans - still angry over President Obama's recent recess appointments of controversial nominees - to confirm quickly 17 district court judges, none of whom is controversial, though some have waited months for Senate action. Working with the support of the White House, Senate Democrats threatened to force Republicans to cast high-profile votes to continue their filibusters against the judges even though Republicans had personally backed some of the nominees.
Republicans denied they were filibustering the judges and argued each would likely get confirmed in the near future. They accused Democrats of "manufacturing a crisis," in the words of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, in order to paint Republicans as obstructionists.
"What the president wants is to distract the country from his failed policies that have led to soaring gas prices and high unemployment, and instead try to write a narrative of obstruction for his campaign," McConnell said on the Senate floor.
Republicans urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada to drop the time-consuming votes on the 17 judges and turn to a bipartisan, job-creating, small business bill that overwhelmingly passed the House last week and has the support of the White House.
The gentlemen's agreement between Reid and McConnell will allow for 14 judges to be confirmed by May 7th, according to a Democratic leadership aide who described it as "a step forward" in the pace of confirmations.
A Republicans leadership aide confirmed that as many as 14 judges could be confirmed over the next two months but characterized it as "return to the normal process of confirming nominees" and "basically the pace we've been on."
Reid and McConnell also agreed to take up the small business bill as early as Thursday. Republicans claimed that as a victory although Democrats, who control the chamber, said it was their plan all along to move next to that bill.