WASHINGTON, D.C. —The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives has approved legislation that will preserve tax cuts for all Americans regardless of income, setting up an election-year standoff with President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats.
The measure approved Wednesday by a vote of 256-171 would extend the breaks passed during the tenure of former President George W. Bush. The vote was split largely along party lines, with only 19 Democrats voting for the bill, and one Republican voting against it.
An alternative plan backed by House Democrats that would extend the tax cuts for everyone except couples making over $250,000 and individuals making over $200,000 was rejected by a similar margin. The plan is similar to one passed last week by the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Lawmakers are facing the prospect of a so-called "fiscal cliff" next January, when all the Bush-era tax cuts expire and automatic spending cuts for the military and domestic programs take effect, which economists say could push the struggling U.S. economy back into recession.
The issue of taxes has become a major issue between President Obama and his presumptive opponent in the November presidential election, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
Following Wednesday's vote in the House of Representatives, Obama said in a written statement that House Republicans had voted to "shower millionaires and billionaires with a $1 trillion tax cut that will inevitably be paid for by gutting investments in critical programs needed to create jobs and strengthen the economy."
The independent Tax Policy Center said in a report released Wednesday that under Romney's tax reform plan, taxpayers earning more than $1 million a year could save about $87,000 in taxes annually, while those earning less than $200,000 a year would see their taxes effectively increase by $500 per household.
The Republican presidential candidate is calling for a 20 percent cut in income tax rates for all American taxpayers.
The Romney campaign criticized the Tax Policy Center study, saying it ignores other elements of the candidate's tax program, including "reforms that would make America’s corporations more competitive by moving from the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world to one that is comparable to our trading partners"