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Editorial: Loss of centrists makes compromise even more crucial

Nov. 28, 2012 @ 12:06 AM

The dire warnings of a "fiscal cliff" has shined a bright light on the need for Democrats and Republicans in Washington to find a compromise that will avoid sending the nation's economy into another tailspin.

President Obama and congressional leaders presumably are working hard to find a solution by the end of the year that will provide an alternative to the expiration of tax cuts for all Americans and mandatory across-the-board budget cuts. We trust they have enough gumption to stray from their respective party lines and find a middle ground that won't be too painful to Americans yet make progress on reining in federal spending.

Let's also hope that any spirit of compromise emanating from the fiscal cliff talks will carry over into the new year, when the next Congress begins work. The upshot from the Nov. 6 elections and various retirements in both the Senate and the House is that Congress has lost even more moderates from its ranks. Among those leaving are some of the Senate's most pragmatic lawmakers, nearly half the House's centrist Blue Dog Democrats and several moderate House Republicans.

So what's left? Possibly a Congress that is even more polarized than we've seen in recent years. If both liberals and conservatives remain unbending on issues, little will be accomplished.

"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," William Hoagland, senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, a private group advocating compromise, told The Associated Press.

But solutions are needed, and that should be the first priority for the nation's lawmakers, not partisan politics at the expense of what's best for the country. Hopefully, the spirit of compromise will prevail. That would be a welcome change.

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