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Mar 25, 2012 10:52 AM by Matt Stafford

Divided Congress settles for below-the-radar bills

WASHINGTON (AP) - Congress is finding it hard to do what used to be easy.

The Washington divide, hardened by election-year politics, has stifled the agendas of both parties. Lawmakers are limited to below-the-radar bills and modest ambitions.

Complicating the legislative process are emboldened congressional conservatives, their ranks larger after the influx of tea partiers in 2010, who are determined to devolve power to the states.

And the old way of winning votes from recalcitrant lawmakers by funding their pet projects is largely gone, scuttled by soaring deficits and a ban on such "earmarks."

This new reality jeopardizes a bill to keep federal highway and transit aid flowing to states just as the spring construction season opens. Unable to agree, the House votes Monday night on a temporary extension.

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