WASHINGTON - The House passed a bill yesterday to extend middle-class tax cuts while letting those for the wealthy expire, even as talks continued on extending them all.

The House bill was a political maneuver to satisfy Democratic lawmakers' supporters who oppose extending tax cuts for the wealthy. It has no chance in the Senate, where Democrats need Republican support to pass tax legislation.

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio, who wants the cuts to also continue for those in the highest-income levels, denounced the House vote at a news conference.

"I'm trying to catch my breath so I don't refer to this maneuver going on today as chicken crap, all right?" said Boehner, expected to become House speaker in January. "But this is nonsense, all right? The election was one month ago. We are 23 months from the next election, and the political games have already started trying to set up the next election."

Sweeping income tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush are to expire at year's end. If Congress does not act, taxpayers at every income level would be hit with a significant tax increase.

President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress want to extend the tax cuts only for individuals making less than $200,000 and married couples making less than $250,000. The bill passed by the House would do that.

The vote was 234 to 188. All but 20 Democrats voted in favor of the bill; all but three Republicans opposed it.

Republicans and some rank-and-file Democrats want to extend the tax cuts for everyone, and the White House has left open the door for a compromise to do that for up to three years.

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