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During the operation, nearly 2,000 guns were sold to straw purchasers with the expectation that they would be trafficked across the border to the Sinaloa Cartel. ATF agents lost track of the guns — something that all sides now say was a major failure in planning — and the guns began to turn up at crime scenes, including at least two weapons found at the scene of a shootout that killed U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010.

Mr. Holder said he took steps in 2011 to shut down the program and asked for an internal audit to hold employees accountable.

Last week, Mr. Holder told another House panel that he would be willing to sit down with Mr. Boehner to try to work out a solution that would let the documents be reviewed but wouldn’t impinge on the executive branch’s deliberative process.

That testimony last week, before the House Judiciary Committee, was the eighth time Mr. Holder has come before Congress and talked about Fast and Furious, and the administration says it already has turned over more than 7,000 pages of documents.

Mr. Issa’s staff, however, says Mr. Holder and the department have battled at every turn to withhold information. Mr. Issa has accused top officials of a pattern of misleading — culminating in the letter that the department had to withdraw in December after the committee’s investigation showed its claims to be untrue.

The House is on recess this week, so contempt proceedings will move forward next week. It will be the first time the Obama administration has faced contempt of Congress proceedings.

House Democrats approved a contempt resolution against former White House lawyer Harriet Miers in 2008, seeking an interview with her on her role in the firings of U.S. attorneys. She refused an on-the-record sworn interview with congressional investigators.

The House voted 223-32 to hold her in contempt. Most Republicans boycotted the vote.

At the same time, former White House political adviser Karl Rove was refusing to be interviewed by the House Judiciary Committee. That matter never reached the House floor.

In 2009, after President George W. Bush left office, Democrats and former Bush officials reached an agreement to produce documents and on-the-record testimony.