WASHINGTON – Senate Democratic leaders decided Thursday to delay a vote on preserving soon-to-expire middle-class tax cuts until after congressional elections in November.

President Barack Obama has made the tax cuts a priority. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., decided to delay a vote after a meeting with other Senate Democrats failed to produce a consensus on how to proceed.

“Democrats believe we must permanently extend tax cuts for the middle class before they expire at the end of the year, and we will,” Reid spokesman Jim Manley said. “Unfortunately, to this point we have received no cooperation from Republicans to do so.”

Enacted in 2001 and 2003 under President George W. Bush, the tax cuts were the most sweeping in a generation. If Congress takes no action, taxpayers at every income level face significant tax increases next year.

Republicans want to extend all of the tax cuts. Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress want to extend them for individuals making less than $200,000 and married couples making less than $250,000.

“We will come back in November and stay in session as long as it takes to get this done,” Manley said.

A “lame duck” session of the House and Senate is set to begin Nov. 15 with new faces and perhaps a far different political outlook after an election in which Republicans are expected to make significant gains, even possibly enough to gain control of the House or Senate, or both. Democrats still will hold the majority through the end of the year, however. Some House and Senate Democratic officials believe the timing would make it easier to extend the Bush-era tax cuts.

But who gets a break on their tax bill — everyone, or just what Obama calls the middle class — still would likely be the subject of heated debate.

The Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, described an election-driven stalemate unlikely to lift in the next five weeks, when many lawmakers up for re-election would prefer to be home campaigning. All 435 seats in the House and 37 in the Senate are on the line.