The House voted Thursday to hold two of President Bush's confidants in contempt for failing to cooperate with an inquiry into whether a purge of federal prosecutors was politically motivated.
Angry Republicans boycotted the vote and staged a walkout.
The vote was 223-32 Thursday to hold presidential chief of staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers in contempt. The citations charge Miers with failing to testify and accuse her and Bolten of refusing Congress' demands for documents related to the 2006-2007 firings.
Republicans said Democrats should instead be working on extending a law - set to expire Saturday - allowing the government to eavesdrop on phone calls and e-mails in the United States in cases of suspected terrorist activity.
The White House said the Justice Department would not ask the U.S. attorney to pursue the House contempt charges.
It is the first time in 25 years that a full chamber of Congress has voted on a contempt of Congress citation.
The action, which Democrats had been threatening for months, was the latest wrinkle in a more than yearlong constitutional clash between Congress and the White House.
The Bush administration has said the information being sought is off-limits under executive privilege, and argues that Bolten and Miers are immune from prosecution.
Still, the resolution would allow the House to bring its own lawsuit on the matter.
If Congress doesn't act to enforce the subpoenas, said Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat, it would "be giving its tacit consent to the dangerous idea of an imperial presidency, above the law and beyond the reach of checks and balances."
© 2008 Associated Press