House Panel Subpoeanas White House Party Crashers

The House Homeland Security Committee Wednesday approved subpoenas for alleged White House state dinner crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi.

The Salahis declined to testify before the panel last week during a hearing that probed how they made their way into the dinner and had their pictures taken with President Obama and Vice President Biden, despite not having an invitation.

Stephen Best, the attorney for the Salahis, told the committee in a 12-page letter Tuesday that the couple would not testify. Best said the Salahis felt the panel prejudged them. Best cited instances where members of the committee described his clients as "con artists" and a modern-day "Bonnie and Clyde."

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said that the grounds the Salahis used to decline the invitation "are irrelevant and have no bearing" on the House.

The subpoenas require the Salahis to appear by January 20, 2010. Thompson says if the duo does not testify, they could be held in contempt of Congress.

In addition, the panel killed a proposal made by the top Republican on the committee, Rep. Pete King (R-NY), to subpoena White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers.

The panel invited Rogers to the initial hearing last week. But the White House refused to make her available to the panel.

"If we're going to get a full picture of what happened that evening, we have to have Desiree Rogers here," said King. "We are not looking for a Constitutional confrontation."

The subpoenas mark an extraordinary move by the committee. It had never issued a subpoena since its creation following September 11, 2001.

Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan did testify last week about the state dinner security breach. Sullivan says his agency bears responsibility for the incident. The Secret Service has placed three of its employees on administrative leave while it studies how the Salahis were able to get so close to the president.