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Bush, Congress on Collision Course over DA Firings

U.S. President Bush and the Democratic Party-controlled Congress are moving closer to a confrontation over the firings of eight federal prosecutors. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from the White House.

Congress stepped up the pressure on the White House Wednesday, one day after President Bush made an offer to Capitol Hill.

The president said thousands of pages of documents were being provided to Congressional investigators, and that certain White House aides would answer questions in private.

Less than 24 hours after the president spoke, a House panel authorized the use of subpoenas, if necessary, to compel the officials to testify in public and under oath.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers said the president's offer of informal interviews was not enough.

"Well, we could meet at the local pub and have that kind of gathering," he said. "I love conversations, especially with veteran lawyers and people associated with the White House. It would be a great conversation. But in my judgment it would not advance us toward uncovering the simple truth in this matter."

Conyers made clear he sees the authority to issue subpoenas as a bargaining chip in further negotiations with the White House.

"So all we are asking today is to hold these subpoenas in abeyance and hope we can continue the discussion," he added.

At a briefing for reporters, White House Spokesman Tony Snow held out the hope that some way could still be found to bridge the gap with Capitol Hill. But he also said the administration has made its last, and best, offer.

"If they issue subpoenas, the offer is withdrawn," he said.

Snow argued that White House aides cannot be forced to testify before Congress. And he suggested some Democrats want to stage a show trial for purely partisan reasons.

"The question is, whether you are trying to create a political spectacle rather than simply the basis for getting to the truth," he added.

At issue is just why these eight federal prosecutors (all Republican) were sacked by the Bush Justice Department.

The White House contends it has the power to hire and fire federal attorneys, and that the eight in question were not performing well. But some of those let go say they were replaced for political reasons, because they did not go along with requests from other Republicans to launch investigations against Democrats running for public office.