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“We have hundreds of hearings that have produced bupkis,” said Mr. Snow, who added that Democrats have engaged in “inquisitions.”

Mrs. Pelosi defended the actions of Congress.

“The contempt proceedings in the House Judiciary Committee today are part of a broader effort by House Democrats to restore our nation’s fundamental system of checks and balances,” she said. “For the last six years, under Republican leadership, Congress failed to conduct its proper oversight role, resulting in fiascos such as the mismanagement of our Iraq policy, widespread corruption by contractors such as Halliburton and the failed response to Hurricane Katrina.”

If the House approves the contempt citations, the matter will be sent to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Jeffrey A. Taylor, but the Justice Department has said the U.S. attorney is not required to pursue it. Contempt of Congress citations do not “apply to the President or presidential subordinates who assert executive privilege,” Brian A. Benczkowski, principal deputy assistant attorney general, said in a letter sent Tuesday to Mr. Conyers.