The House voted Thursday to make permanent a generous tax break that makes it easier for small businesses to buy new equipment and improve their property, part of an election-year showdown over a series of expired tax breaks worth billions.

The tax break allows business owners to more quickly write off the costs of computers, machinery and other equipment, as well as improvements to retail property. It expired at the beginning of the year, along with more than 50 other temporary tax breaks that Congress routinely extends.

The vote was 272 to 144 in favor of the bill. House Republicans said the bill is part of a broader effort to add more certainty to the tax code.

"My bill provides predictability by making permanent a small business expensing measure that's been part of the tax code in some form since the 1950s," said Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, the main sponsor of the bill.

Democratic leaders opposed the bill -- and the White House threatened a veto -- because it would add $73 billion to the budget deficit over the next decade.

"Whatever happened to all the rhetoric about getting our fiscal house in order? Out the window," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee.

The House also voted Thursday to make permanent two smaller tax breaks, including one that makes it easier for small business owners to deduct charitable contributions.

The Senate has been working on a package that would extend nearly all the temporary tax breaks through 2015. The fate of Thursday's bills -- and all the expired tax breaks -- is unlikely to be resolved until after congressional elections in November.