WASHINGTON – The House voted Thursday to issue contempt citations for two presidential confidants on an almost completely party-line vote pushed by Democrats.
The White House said the Justice Department would not ask the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to pursue the House contempt charges. However, the measure would allow the House to bring its own lawsuit on the matter.
The vote also stirred partisan rancor that was rooted in disputes over both the contempt citations — which the White House and Republicans alike have dismissed as Democratic gamesmanship — and the lack of an upcoming vote on a terror surveillance package.
The citations charge former White House counsel Harriet Miers with failing to testify and accuse her and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten of refusing Congress' demands for documents related to the 2006-2007 firings of a number of U.S. attorneys, which Democrats believe might have been done for political reasons.
The House supported the citations 223-32, with nearly all Democrats voting in favor of the resolution, and nearly all Republicans voting against. The vote count was suppressed after Republicans walked off the House floor in protest.
The were a few exceptions. Three Republicans voted for the citations: Reps. Walter Jones of North Carolina; Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland; and Ron Paul of Texas, who is also seeking the GOP presidential nomination.
One Democrat — Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas — voted against the resolution, and Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev., voted "present."
Few Republicans were in the chamber after House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, led a walk-out off the House floor in protest of the vote.
Boehner and other Republicans said they believed the House should instead be voting on a terror surveillance bill to renew a law that is set to expire Friday.
"We will not stand here and watch this floor be abused for pure political grandstanding at the expense of our national security. We will not stand for this, and we will not stay for this, and I would ask my House Republican colleagues ... let's just get up and leave," Boehner said.
And with that the Republicans headed off the floor.
Shortly afterward, Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., noted the action.
"This is an interesting turn of events," Slaughter said.
Afterward, some of the 198 House Republicans returned to the House floor as Democrats then moved quickly to hold the vote.
The last time a full chamber of Congress voted on a contempt of Congress citation was 1983. The House voted 413-0 to cite former EPA official Rita Lavelle for contempt of Congress for refusing to appear before a House committee. Lavelle was later acquitted in court of the contempt charge, but she was convicted of perjury in a separate trial.
FOX News Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.