If the Republicans really believe our top federal judges deserve an up-and-down vote, and that the filibuster is an unfair relic, there's an easy solution: Propose a rules change that will end it-in 2015.

I'd still support keeping the filibuster as way to protect minority rights. But its history has been pretty mixed. If the shift were voted in now but deferred for ten years, it would be hard for anyone to argue that it was being changed for narrow political advantage. The Republican push might even look like principle, instead of yet another raw power play along the lines of Tom DeLay's mid-census midnight Congressional redistricting. If they can sunset the phasing in of tax cuts to make them easier to pass, why not sunrise this fundamental shift in how the Senate has done business for 200 years?

Would the Republicans accept this deal if offered full Democratic support? Would they offer an alternative to grabbing everything they can the moment they hold the reins of power? I doubt it. But it would be a great way to highlight their real priorities.

Paul Loeb is the author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While, named the #3 political book of Fall 2004 by the History Channel and American Book Association. See www.theimpossible.org