The move comes after the officials failed to respond to Leahy's demand last week that they immediately provide testimony and documents related to an investigation by the Senate Judiciary Committee into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys last year.
The officials had previously failed to obey the subpoenas, which the committee issued last summer.
"They have still not complied with the subpoenas," said Erica Chabot, a spokeswoman for Leahy, who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee. The Thursday vote accelerates the possibility of a legal collision between the Senate and White House over the president's claim that the officials are protected by executive privilege.
Leahy rejected that claim in a ruling last week. The White House, in turn, rejected Leahy's ruling.
The move threatens prominent White House aides with a misdemeanor charge of contempt, which carries a jail sentence of not more than 12 months and a fine of up to $1,000, according to a committee aide.
In addition to Rove, now resigned, the officials include White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, former political director Sara Taylor and her deputy, J. Scott Jennings.
But Leahy, a former prosecutor, faces high hurdles before the officials would be charged.
The committee vote could be delayed by any of the panel's members, who include 10 Democrats and nine Republicans.
If the contempt citations are approved, the committee would recommend that the full Senate consider them, where additional procedural hurdles threaten their passage. It's also possible that the citations will never reach the Senate floor. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., hasn't decided how to move forward.
"Once the committee acts, Sen. Reid will discuss with Sen. Leahy how to proceed," said Jim Manley, a Reid spokesman.
Even if the Senate approves the citations, It may not turn into prosecutions.
Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales indicated that he wouldn't permit that path to be taken. It's unclear where his successor, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, stands.
If prosecutions are pursued, they would fall to Jeffrey A. Taylor, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. Taylor served as Gonzales' counselor before being appointed to his current post by Gonzales last year.
Evan Lehmann can be reached at email@example.com.
© 2007 The Brattleboro Reformer