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Friday February 24, 2012 | 08:06 AM

Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine are the two least conservative Republican senators, according to 2011 vote ratings released this morning by the nonpartisan National Journal

The publication issues its conservative and liberal rankings of members of Congress each year, putting together a composite score based on breaking down key votes on economic, social and foreign policy issues. Collins and Snowe have usually been in the middle of the Senate, among the least conservative Republicans but not as liberal as conservative Democrats.

Of the 47 Senate Republicans, Collins’ conservative rating comes in 47th, while Snowe’s rating comes in 46th.

In the House, Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, a member of the House Progressive Caucus, is rated the 53rd most liberal lawmaker. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, a member of the Blue Dog coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats, is rated the 130th most liberal House member. Michaud’s votes on economic and social issues are rated relatively conservative for a Democrat, but he has a more liberal rating on his foreign policy votes.

The ratings are based on 97 Senate votes and 105 House votes during 2011. Two example of votes that boosted the liberal rating of Collins and Snowe: both voted for the confirmation of John Bryson to be President Obama’s secretary of commerce, while 26 GOP senators voted against the nomination; and both voted for the confirmation of Edward Chen to the U.S. District Court in California, while 46 GOP senators voted no.

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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