The best thing that can be said for the agreement between Senate Democrats and Republicans to modify the filibuster rule is that it was a compromise. With luck, perhaps it will lead to agreements on matters beyond Senate rules.

Unfortunately, the final agreement will not prevent minority Republicans from over-using the rule, as they have in each of the last three Congresses. In each of those two-year sessions, the minority invoked the filibuster more times than in any previous Congress.

Originally, as immortalized in the movie, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," the filibuster was an extraordinary measure that required the senator or senators using it to keep the floor, talking incessantly for hours or days. The longest on record by an individual was by South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, who spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes against civil rights legislation. For a group, the record is held by a bipartisan group of Southern senators who stretched a filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for more than 57 days.

Now, a senator needs only to serve notice of a filibuster and 60 of the Senate's 100 votes are needed merely to advance legislation to a debate or vote. That's why it was invoked 73 times in the most recent session of Congress.

The compromise would modestly limit the filibuster while ensuring the minority party the ability to attach amendments to pending bills. It would reduce stalling tactics on many court and executive branch nominations, but it falls well short of making the Senate what it claims to be, the world's greatest deliberative body.

In 1939, by the way, the year that Jimmy Stewart's "Mr. Smith" went to Washington, the real-world Senate conducted no filibusters.