Washington (CNN) – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. John McCain engaged in quiet negotiations over the weekend and got close to averting the so-called nuclear option over a dispute surrounding President Obama's nominees, but they failed to seal the deal, sources in both parties tell CNN.
“The door opened a crack,” according to a senior Democratic source.
McCain told Reid he found the six GOP senators needed to join Democrats in breaking filibusters of the nominations, giving Democrats a key part of what they want: approval of Richard Cordray to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
McCain told Reid that in exchange, the president would have to agree to withdraw two nominees for the National Labor Relations Board whom Mr. Obama had put in office by recess appointment, Sharon Block and Richard Griffin. Republicans disputed those appointments, and the Supreme Court agreed to take up the case.
The NLRB, which hears and rules on labor disputes, is one of the most politically polarized institutions in Washington.
According to sources in both parties, Reid told McCain he couldn’t go along with the idea because they could not find replacements willing to go through what will surely be a politically rough nomination for an NRLB term that would be up in 2014.
Still, sources in both parties say this could be the seeds of a deal to avert the nuclear option – a Democratic threat to get around GOP filibusters by changing the Senate rules for seven Obama nominees, and allow them to be approved by a simple majority.
Reid said the change he is proposing is "very minimal," applying only to Cabinet and executive branch positions.
"This is not judges, this is not legislation - this has allowing the people of America to have a president who can have his team in place," Reid said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
A rare bipartisan meeting of all 100 senators is slated to take place late Monday in the Old Senate Chamber to discuss this idea.
Leading up to that, private talks continue.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was seen leaving Reid’s office.