After reviewing 27,000 pages of documents from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Republicans and Democrats came to different conclusions about the agency's ability to prevent one of the worst public health crises in American history.

Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said Tuesday that its six-month investigation into the FDA's role in last fall's meningitis outbreak shows the agency knew for a decade about serious safety lapses at the specialized pharmacy that made the tainted drugs, but failed to act.

Democrats said they believe the documents paint a different picture, one of an agency that made some efforts to rein in the Massachusetts-based New England Compounding Center, which made the contaminated steroids tied to the outbreak that has so far killed 53 people. However, they were thwarted by the Bush administration and by ambiguous federal laws and conflicting court rulings that do not give the FDA clear authority over compounders.