Washington attorney Stanley M. Brand, who is representing baseball, said during a conference call yesterday that the hearing represented a "misuse of congressional power."
"The audacity, the legal audacity of subpoenaing someone who's been a grand jury witness before there's been a trial in the case in California is just an absolutely excessive and unprecedented misuse of congressional power," Brand said.
Congress claims much of its powers over baseball under the Constitution's interstate commerce clause.
The standoff raised the possibility that the subpoenas could be defied. If that happened, the committee could vote on contempt citations that would need approval of the full House. From there, the dispute could end up in federal court.
"If you are found guilty of contempt, that usually results in jail time," said Schiliro, a lawyer.
Rob Manfred, a Major League Baseball executive vice president, said it will be left to the summoned players to decide whether they want to testify - even as baseball challenges the committee's authority as an organization.
Manfred also received a subpoena, as did players union head Donald Fehr, baseball executive vice president Sandy Alderson and San Diego Padres general manager Kevin Towers. Manfred and Fehr told the committee they would appear.
But baseball resisted a committee subpoena calling for it to turn over documents, including results of drug testing. Brand called the request "overly expansive."
Under pressure from the public and the Senate, baseball recently began a tougher anti-steroid program containing year-round testing and harsher penalties than before. Last week, Commissioner Bud Selig said the percentage of players who tested positive in 2004 was down to 1 percent to 2 percent.
Given that progress, baseball suggested it was the wrong time to convene a hearing.
But the committee, in a statement, promised to conduct "a thorough, fair and responsible investigation" and said it was important to educate America's youth about steroid risks.
Sun staff writer Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.