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House votes to keep tax cut for 'middle class' only. Republicans fume.

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Democratic Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia, who last month survived a tough reelection bid against a tea party-backed GOP rival, says he would have voted to extend tax breaks to all income levels because a tax increase in hard economic times will hurt job creation. “Why would we want to do that? It will hurt the very people we want to protect,” he said before Thursday’s vote. “There is opportunity for some common ground here, but unfortunately we’re dealing with immovable objects here – ideology in their party and in ours.”

By pushing through the measure, Democratic congressional leaders also sent a message to President Obama. He has been widely criticized in House Democratic ranks for ceding too much ground to Republicans, most recently when he volunteered to freeze nonmilitary government salaries in advance of Monday’s White House meeting with congressional leaders.

“House Democrats are taking a very different negotiating strategy than President Obama,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey. “They are starting with what they want before negotiating with Republicans. President Obama tends to give things away before he negotiates.”

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