Republicans open door to negotiating with Holder over contempt push

Top Republican lawmakers opened the door to negotiating with Eric Holder Wednesday in order to potentially avoid a contempt vote in Congress, a day after the attorney general said he's willing to make "compromises."

Republican lawmakers and Holder are at a standoff over documents pertaining to the failed Fast and Furious gunrunning operation.

After Holder said he's willing to reach a compromise, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., on Wednesday sent a letter to the attorney general urging him to make the committee an offer.

"Let me be clear -- if the Department of Justice submits a serious proposal for how it intends to alter its refusal to produce critical documents subpoenaed by the Committee, I am ready and willing to meet to discuss your proposal," Issa wrote.

The congressman did not set any conditions for what he wants to see in Holder's offer.

A senator on the other side of Capitol Hill did, however.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday he still wants to see at least 80,000 documents in response to a congressional subpoena. The Justice Department so far claims to have produced about 7,600 of them.

Grassley told Fox News that only "when they cough up" the rest of those documents would he be satisfied.

"If he's willing to produce those documents in the next 10 days, I would say yes, it has avoided the confrontation that he's created," Grassley said. As for what concessions he'd be willing to give, the senator said he'd be comfortable accepting certain "restrictions" on the use of those documents so long as they are provided to Congress.

A committee vote on contempt proceedings so far has only been scheduled on the House side in Issa's committee, though Grassley and other GOP leaders support the move.

Obama administration officials have assailed the scheduled vote as purely political.

But Holder, under intense questioning before a Senate committee Tuesday, offered to negotiate with lawmakers in the interest of avoiding the clash.

"I am prepared to make compromises with regard to the documents that can be made available," Holder said.

The attorney general has opposed releasing what is described as "deliberative material."

But he said that "in spite of that," he would sit down with Republican leaders "to try to work our way through this in an attempt to avoid a constitutional crisis and come up with ways, creative ways perhaps, in which we can make this material available."

Holder even opened the door to releasing affidavits pertaining to wiretap applications, though he described that as a "truly extraordinary act."

The top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday wrote Issa urging the panel to work out the differences.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., urged Issa to meet with one of Holder's deputies and work toward a "timely resolution" of the issue.

"Specifically, I believe it would benefit the Committee to hear directly from the deputy attorney general about why some of the documents listed in the draft contempt citation are covered by a federal criminal statute that prohibits their disclosure," Cummings wrote. "In turn, I believe it would benefit the department to hear directly from us about specific documents we believe could be produced to the Committee without compromising ongoing prosecutions."

Grassley, though, put the onus on Holder.

"He talks about a constitutional crisis, but remember: This is a constitutional crisis that he created because he's been stonewalling for a year and a half on delivering these documents," Grassley said.

Some GOP lawmakers have run out of patience. At Tuesday's hearing. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, announced that Holder should resign -- citing the Fast and Furious operation, but also concerns about an ongoing security leak probe.

"Americans deserve an attorney general that will be honest with them, they deserve an attorney general who will uphold the basic standards of political independence and accountability. You've proven time and time again, sadly, that you're unwilling to do so," he said.

Holder in response accused Republicans of playing politics, and specifically accused Cornyn of "breathtaking" inaccuracies.