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November 26, 2012

Less moderates make deals harder in new Congress

WASHINGTON — When the next Congress cranks up in January, there will be more women, many new faces and 11 fewer tea party-backed House Republicans from the class of 2010 who sought a second term.

Overriding those changes, though, is a thinning of pragmatic, centrist veterans. Among those leaving are some of the Senate’s most pragmatic lawmakers, nearly half the House’s centrist Democrats and several moderate House Republicans.

That could leave the parties more polarized even as President Barack Obama and congressional leaders talk up the cooperation needed to tackle problems such as curbing deficits, revamping tax laws and culling savings from Medicare and other popular programs.

“This movement away from the center, at a time when issues have to be resolved from the middle, makes it much more difficult to find solutions to major problems,” said William Hoagland, senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

In the Senate, moderate Scott Brown, R-Mass., lost to Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who will be one of the most liberal members. Another GOP moderate, Richard Lugar of Indiana, fell in the primary election. Two others, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Olympia Snowe of Maine, are retiring.

Moderate Democratic senators such as Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Jim Webb of Virginia are leaving, as is Democratic-leaning independent Joe Lieberman.

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