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Republican Lawmakers Block US Middle Class Tax Cut Extension

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Republican lawmakers have won another round in the political battle over how to kick-start the struggling U.S. economy.

The Republican minority in the Senate blocked a measure that would have extended current tax breaks to middle class Americans but not to the country's wealthiest citizens.  Republicans effectively killed the proposal in a procedural vote.

Republicans argue extending tax cuts for everyone, including the wealthiest,  is necessary to create jobs and spark consumer spending.

The legislation, backed by Senate Democrats, would have kept tax breaks in place for individuals making less than $200,000 a year or for couples arning less than $250,000 a year.

A second measure - to extend the tax cuts for Americans making less than $1 million a year - also failed.

The tax cuts - first enacted during the presidency of George W. Bush - expire at the end of the month.

White House officials and a select group of lawmakers have been meeting over the past several days in an attempt to forge a compromise.  

Earlier Saturday, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden used the president's weekly address to urge Congress to extend tax breaks to the middle class.

The vice president, filling in for President Barack Obama while Mr. Obama returned from Afghanistan, also called on lawmakers to approve an extension of unemployment benefits to millions of Americans before they leave for the upcoming holiday break.

In the Republican address, Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois called for bipartisan solutions to cut federal spending.

Senator Kirk said the American people want Washington to tax, spend and borrow less.

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