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:
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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