Put away the cots

PUT AWAY THE COTS…. Three times in three days, Senate Republicans unanimously rejected efforts to debate Wall Street reform. It led Senate Democrats to schedule all all-night session for this evening, and a fourth attempt to pass the motion to proceed.

As of this afternoon, those efforts are no longer necessary. With talks of a bipartisan deal having broken down, Republicans have apparently decided to end their obstructionism — at least for now.

Senate Republicans ended three days of resistance on Wednesday and signaled that they are ready to allow debate of legislation to overhaul regulation of the nation’s financial system.

The Republicans, who were gathering to make their formal decision, appeared to back down after Democrats threatened to keep the Senate in session through the night to dramatize the standoff.

It’s worth emphasizing that this is just a breakthrough on the initial step. Republicans haven’t agreed to allow an up-or-down vote on the legislation; they’re now just willing to let the Senate vote on a measure to let members debate the legislation.

In other words, it’s just a foot in the door. Republicans will continue to obstruct every step forward, and will no doubt filibuster the bill itself, filibuster attempts to choose members of the conference committee, and then filibuster final passage.

This afternoon’s news is encouraging, then, but we still have a long ways to go.

As for what led to the breakthrough, it gets back to what we talked about this morning — the GOP blocked a vote on the debate because they saw it as a way of strengthening behind-closed-door negotiations. Now that it’s clear that a bipartisan agreement won’t be reached, and there’s nothing more than can be accomplished through negotiations, Republicans are more inclined to let the bill advance.

It seems bizarre, but the breakdown in negotiations means more progress, not less.

For what it’s worth, talks will continue, even after the motion to proceed passes, and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) has assured Republicans that there will ample opportunities to address provisions of the bill on the floor.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.