WASHINGTON -- Democrats pushed a yearlong extension of tax cuts for all but the highest-earning Americans through the Senate yesterday, a significant political victory for them on a measure fated to go no further in Congress.

Senators approved the Democratic bill by a near party-line 51-48 vote. Minutes earlier, lawmakers voted 54-45 to kill a rival Republican package that would have included the best-off in the tax reductions.

The $250 billion Democratic measure would extend tax cuts for millions of Americans in 2013 that otherwise would expire in January. But it would deny those reductions to individuals making more than $200,000 yearly and couples earning at least $250,000.

Passage of the measure put the Senate on record as backing a bill that closely follows the tax-cutting vision of President Barack Obama. It averted what would have been a significant embarrassment for Obama, who has made tax fairness, meaning tax increases on the rich, an overarching theme of his re-election campaign.

The vote serves as a counterpoint to the GOP-run House, which next week will approve tax cuts nearly identical to the $405 billion Republican plan the Senate rejected yesterday.

"The question is: Who are you fighting for?" Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said before the vote. "Are you fighting for the people who make a billion dollars a year? That's who the Republicans are fighting for. . . . Or are you fighting for the middle class, the heart and soul of America?"

Republicans said the measure was all about Democratic posturing for the upcoming elections and would hurt the economy because boosting taxes on the wealthy will hinder them from hiring workers for their companies.

"Thank goodness it's not going anywhere because it would be bad for the economy, the single worst thing we could do to the country," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

With Senate control at stake in November's elections, Republicans were hoping that several Democrats seeking re-election would hurt their candidacies by having backed the Democratic package.

The bill would dramatically boost the estate tax, which would be widely unpopular in farming, ranching and high cost-of-living states, and increase levies on dividends and capital gains, which are relied on by many elderly people.

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