Senate majority leader Harry Reid made a basically meaningless concession to Speaker John Boehner in an effort to end the government shutdown. In a letter Reid promised that if the House passed a clean continuing resolution to fund the government, he will name conferees to a budget conference.
The actual effect of this concession would be essentially nothing. There is no reason the Democratic conferees need to reach a deal in conference on the budget and the Democratic majority in the Senate could still reject anything that comes out of conference.
The move has two political implications. First, it gives Democrats a talking point about who is being unreasonable. It shows they are willing to work on the big issues, just not with the threat hanging over their heads.
Second, it is a tiny fig leaf Boehner can grab if he is desperate for an out. The general sense is that Boehner seems to feel he needs to at least get “something” out of this whole fight or risk seriously reducing his standing. This is technically “something,” even if it is a rather meaningless something.