WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee voted for a contempt citation against presidential confidants Karl Rove and Josh Bolten on Thursday, the latest move in an inquiry into possibly politically motivated firings of federal prosecutors.
The 12-7 vote sent the citation against the two to the full Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters afterward that he will consider whether to bring it to the floor next year.
Rove, the architect of President Bush's two campaigns for the White House, and Bolten, the president's chief of staff, have refused to comply with subpoenas demanding testimony and documents in the congressional probe.
Rove, who recently left government, and Bolten claim the information Congress demands is off-limits under executive privilege. Lawmakers in both the House and Senate dispute that.
The Senate Judiciary Committee vote means that contempt citations against Bush administration officials await floor action in both chambers of Congress.
It's not clear they will advance any further.
Even if the citations receive floor votes, the issue likely would land in federal courts in a drawn-out constitutional showdown over what White House information should be made available for congressional oversight.
Any court proceedings would almost certainly survive the Bush administration.
"They should be fully aware of the futility of pressing ahead on this," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said. "It has long been understood that, in circumstances like these, that the constitutional prerogatives of the president would make it a futile and purely political act for Congress to refer contempt citations to U.S. attorneys."
Lawmakers of both parties say Congress shouldn't threaten to cite someone with contempt and not follow through.
"I vote for the contempt citations knowing that it's highly likely to be a meaningless act," Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said. "In this context we have no alternative."
Specter and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, joined 10 Democrats to report the citation to the full Senate. All seven no votes came from Republicans.
The House's contempt citations name Bolten and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, who also refused to testify. Leaders of that chamber had planned a floor vote since September and say it's still possible.
Congress is expected to adjourn next week until January.