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It's quite possible that some anti-government, Tea-Party conservatives will sweep into the Senate this year. How could they affect the operations of government? Jonathan Weisman takes a look at this question in The Wall Street Journal. "With Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski's concession late Tuesday, more than a half-dozen tea party outsiders have won GOP Senate primaries, in part on promises to transform the way a Senate designed for collegiality operates," he notes. But "that has raised the prospect that the Senate could grind to a halt." Why? "An alliance of outsiders," he writes, may "change the deal-making culture of the upper-body."

The issue is the Senate's unanimity-demanding nature:


Since the beginning of the republic, the Senate has required unanimous consent to end discussions on one bill and move to another. Unanimous consent is also needed to allow staff members on the floor to initiate a vote or limit the time spent on a bill.

Weisman cites Rutgers congressional scholar Ross Baker, who think it's possible "outsider tactics" won't so much "change business-as-usual" as "destroy the institution." For all that the "current Senate is gaining a reputation for gridlock and rancor," it has still "passed 272 bills by unanimous consent." That might change, though, with this next election.

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