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Fragile Filibuster Deal Nearly Falls Apart Over ATF Director

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"I've always believed [the deal] was fragile," Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a central figure in crafting the agreement and warding off the nuclear option, told reporters. "Don't get me wrong. I never believed otherwise."

Murkowski changed her vote after speaking to McCain and Susan Collins (R-ME), both of whom voted yes, on the floor. The Alaskan declined to talk to reporters afterward. Democrats expected her to vote yes but privately believe she was initially talked out of it.

"Lisa's just a friend of mine and I thought we'd have a nice little chat about what we had for dinner last night," Collins quipped, describing as "accurate" a reporter's characterization that she rescued Murkowski as she was being ganged up on by Republican senators. "I was concerned that she was being pummeled by both sides."

Collins told reporters that despite her "concerns" about Jones' nomination, "I believe the way to express those concerns is to vote no on his nominations rather than voting no on cloture. I think that there are too many filibusters in the Senate, and that we need to move forward on bills and on nominations and let the Senate work its will."

Senate leaders expect to keep the vote open until about 7 P.M. ET. A spokesperson for Heitkamp told TPM she's "currently on her way to Washington from North Dakota" that "[i]f the vote is held open, she would like to be able to cast her vote."

If confirmed, Jones would become the first permanent ATF director since the position was made subject to Senate confirmation seven years ago.

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Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.