A Senate panel found former presidential adviser Karl Rove and current White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten in contempt of Congress...

WASHINGTON — A Senate panel found former presidential adviser Karl Rove and current White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten in contempt of Congress on Thursday for refusing to testify and turn over documents in the investigation of the firings of nine U.S. attorneys last year.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved contempt citations against Rove and Bolten on a 12-7 vote, rejecting the White House position that the work of two of Bush’s closest advisers is covered by executive privilege.

Earlier this year, the House Judiciary Committee cited Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers for contempt. But action by either chamber of Congress is still weeks or months away. Lawmakers and aides said neither house will take up the issue until late January at the earliest.

The White House on Thursday repeated its offer to allow Rove and other current and former senior aides to testify about the firings behind closed doors, not under oath and with no transcript.

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FCC chief won’t postpone vote

Despite a grilling from a Senate committee Thursday, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin said he would not postpone a vote Tuesday on a controversial media-ownership rule.

The Senate Commerce Committee accused Martin of ramming through what it called an unpopular regulation, which would partially lift a 35-year-old ban prohibiting one company from owning a newspaper and a radio or television station in the same city.

Martin defended his record, saying it may be impossible to achieve consensus on media ownership and his agency is under court and congressional order to keep its media-ownership rules up to date.

Opponents of lifting the cross-ownership ban, including Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen, say it would concentrate too much control over local news and information in the hands of too few owners.

Despite a lengthy public-comment period, fellow commissioners and anti-consolidation groups have criticized Martin for trying to rush the item ahead without examining the impact of consolidation on other issues, such as minority and female ownership of broadcast outlets.

Funding bill means a lot of cutting

Congressional negotiators struggled to cut hundreds of federal programs, big and small, as they fashioned a $500 billion-plus catchall government funding bill Thursday.

But agreement with the White House remained elusive.

Meanwhile, the House passed a bill to keep the government open for another week to give negotiators time to fashion the omnibus spending bill, pass it in both chambers and adjourn for the year.

The House passed the short-term funding bill by a 385-27 vote; Senate approval Thursday night sent it to President Bush. It would fund through Dec. 21 the 14 Cabinet departments whose budgets have yet to pass.


The House on Thursday welcomed two new members, Robert Latta, R-Ohio, and Rob Wittman, R-Va., who won special elections Tuesday, filling seats left vacant by death.

Seattle Times news services