Washington shivered in the grip of a cold front last week. In Congress, however, there were hints of an early thaw.

Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican leader Mitch McConnell struck an accord to modify the rules for Senate filibusters.

The filibuster has been abused in recent years, and liberals were eager to dynamite the cause of so many Republican-engineered logjams. Instead, the Reid-McConnell deal preserves the power of the minority to require a 60-vote supermajority on legislation. At the same time, the agreement should ease procedural delays and votes on nominations. In return for a slightly smaller jam, Republicans will regain the power, thwarted by Reid, to offer amendments and shape legislation.

Passing legislation in the Senate will continue to be a tortuous process.
Yet for two fiercely partisan leaders, the agreement was nonetheless significant.

The deal was further evidence that in the absence of grand bargains, incrementalism looks pretty grand itself. Despite harsh words and a paucity of common ground, the two parties have made genuine progress.

The fiscal cliff was averted. The tax burden was adjusted, and the deficit trimmed. With forced spending cuts and a vote on a continuing resolution to fund the government looming, chances for additional reductions are good. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group in the Senate is negotiating immigration reform.

While the cold hits like a brick, the warmth of small comity sneaks up on you.

Bloomberg News (Jan. 28)