Joshua Bolten, Bush's chief of staff, and Harriet Miers, former White House counsel, have refused to comply with subpoenas to testify on the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. The committee voted along party lines, 22-17, in favor of issuing contempt citations, The Washington Post reported.
"If we countenance a process where our subpoenas can be readily ignored, where a witness under a duly authorized subpoena doesn't even have to bother to show up ... then we have already lost," said committee chairman John Conyers Jr., D-Mich. "We won't be able to get anybody in front of this committee or any other."
Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., argued that the committee, instead of beginning the process of holding Bolten and Miers in contempt, should sue the White House, challenging Bush's claim of executive privilege.
Fred Fielding, the current White House counsel and a veteran of the Watergate scandal, has offered to allow Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser, and other top aides to talk to the committee off the record.