Continued from page 1

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney told the GOP to forgo the vote, saying lawmakers should focus instead on the economy.

“I cannot imagine this will sit well with most Americans,” he said.

Mr. Carney said senior White House and Justice Department officials met Tuesday with House Republican staffers and showed them “a representative sample” of documents sought by the committee. But they were not able to resolve the impasse.

“This was a good-faith effort to try to reach an accommodation,” Mr. Carney said.

A contempt citation likely would not have any immediate concrete effect on the standoff. Congress does have authority to arrest anyone who does not comply with a congressional demand, but that power has been “long dormant,” according to the Congressional Research Service.

Short of that, Congress must rely on either the executive branch — in this case Mr. Holder, as attorney general — to enforce the subpoena, or must turn to the courts and ask them to get involved in the clash between the other two branches of government.

The most recent contempt votes were held in 2008, when Democrats were in control and were seeking White House documents related to the firings of U.S. attorneys. Most Republicans boycotted that vote, but three of them joined Democrats as the chamber held President Bush’s top attorney and his chief of staff in contempt by a vote of 223-32.

Dave Boyer and Sean Lengell contributed to this report.