WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner demanded Thursday that the Obama administration give in and turn over documents related to a botched gun-tracking operation, insisting that's the only way to stop a House vote to hold the attorney general in contempt.

Boehner took a hard line against the Obama administration and Attorney General Eric Holder despite a willingness by House Republicans and Holder to negotiate a settlement before the matter becomes a constitutional crisis. The president has invoked executive privilege, a legal principle used to avoid disclosure of internal presidential documents.

While a confrontation between the legislative and executive branches of government would be an academic dispute to most voters, Boehner on Thursday injected a human element into the battle over documents related to Operation Fast and Furious. He said the family of slain border agent Brian Terry deserved answers about the guns that killed him.

Two guns that were allowed to "walk" from Arizona to Mexico in the failed effort to track weapons were found near Terry after he was killed.

"The Terry family deserves answers about why their son was killed as a result of an operation run by the United States government," Boehner told his weekly news conference.

During the year and a half investigation by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Justice Department turned over 7,600 documents about details of Operation Fast and Furious. But because the department initially denied and then admitted it used a risky investigative technique known as "gun-walking," the committee has turned its attention to how the department responded to the investigation. The additional documents it seeks are about that topic.

Agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Arizona abandoned the agency's usual practice of intercepting all weapons they believed to be illicitly purchased. Instead, the goal of gun-walking was to track such weapons to high-level arms traffickers who had long eluded prosecution and to dismantle their networks.

Gun-walking has long been barred by Justice Department policy, but federal agents in Arizona experimented with it in at least two investigations during the George W. Bush administration before Fast and Furious. These experiments came as the department was under widespread criticism that the old policy of arresting every suspected low-level "straw purchaser" was still allowing tens of thousands of guns to reach Mexico. A straw purchaser is an illicit buyer of guns for others.

The agents in Arizona lost track of several hundred weapons in Operation Fast and Furious.

Boehner renewed his allegation that President Barack Obama's decision to assert executive privilege to withhold the documents "is an admission the White House officials were involved in the decision that misled the Congress and covered up the truth." In fact, historically, several presidents have invoked executive privilege over Cabinet department documents that did not directly involve White House officials.

In an election year, each party leveled charges against the other.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., accused Republicans of pursuing Holder to retaliate against his effort to stop suppression of voters in the upcoming elections. "I'm telling you, this is connected," she told reporters.

In an effort to back up her assertion, Pelosi's office emailed Democratic reports from 2007, when the party accused Republicans of an ongoing effort to deprive people of the right to vote.

Meanwhile, the liberal People for the American Way distributed a video in which Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., suggested a motive for the Obama administration's initial support of the gun-walking fiasco.

"Could it be that what they really were thinking of was in fact to use this walking of guns in order to promote an assault weapons ban?" said Issa, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"Many think so. And they haven't come up with an explanation that would cause any of us not to agree," Issa said.

Issa commented in an interview during the National Rifle Association convention in April.

His spokesman, Frederick Hill, said, "Emails from officials who worked on Fast and Furious clearly show that they wanted to use aspects of the operation to justify new restrictions on gun sales." Hill provided several documents on the subject from Fast and Furious officials.

Holder, in Copenhagen, Denmark, for meetings with European Union officials, said Thursday the administration had given the committee a proposal to negotiate an end to the conflict.

"I think the possibility still exists that it can happen in that way," Holder said. "The proposal that we have made is still there. The House, I think, the House leadership, has to consider now what they will do, so we'll see how it works out."

But he called the contempt vote "unwarranted, unnecessary and unprecedented."

White House press secretary Jay Carney said there was "absolutely" no cover-up on the Fast and Furious controversy. He said executive privilege was asserted only on internal deliberations and "that is separate from trying to find out the truth about this operation."

Democrats contended that a 23-17 party-line contempt vote in the House Oversight committee Wednesday was just political theater.

On Tuesday, Holder offered to give lawmakers a briefing on the withheld documents but insisted that this action satisfy Issa's subpoena for the records and negate the need for a contempt vote.

Boehner on Thursday rejected Holder's approach.

"The negotiation that was proposed by the attorney general is, we should accept some documents of his choosing and, as a result of him turning over some documents of his choosing, that we would never ever pursue contempt," Boehner said. "Now this is not hardly a rational basis for a negotiation, nor is it a reasonable attempt at turning over the documents we've been asking for."

Also on HuffPost:

Here are some key moments in the gun control debate.
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  • 1981: The Attempted Assassination Of President Ronald Reagan

    on March 30, 1981, President Reagan and three others were shot and wounded in an assassination attempt by John Hinckley, Jr. outside the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. Reagan's press secretary, Jim Brady, was shot in the head.

  • 1993: The Brady Handgun Violence Act

    The Brady Handgun Violence Act of 1993, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, mandated that federally licensed dealers complete comprehensive background checks on individuals before selling them a gun. The legislation was named for James Brady, who was shot during an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

  • 1994: The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act

    The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, instituted a ban on 19 kinds of assault weapons, including Uzis and AK-47s. The crime bill also banned the possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. (An exemption was made for weapons and magazines manufactured prior to the ban.)

  • 2004: Law Banning Magazines Holding More Than Ten Rounds Of Ammunition Expires

    In 2004, ten years after it first became law, Congress allowed a provision banning possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition to expire through a sunset provision. Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke told HuffPost that the expiration of this provision meant that Rep. Gabby Giffords's alleged shooter was able to fire off 20-plus shots without reloading (under the former law he would have had only ten).

  • 2007: The U.S. Court of Appeals For The District Of Columbia Rules In Favor Of Dick Heller

    In 2007 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled to allow Dick Heller, a licensed District police officer, to keep a handgun in his home in Washington, D.C. Following that ruling, the defendants petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

  • 2008: The NICS Improvement Amendments Act

    Following the deadly shooting at Virginia Tech University, Congress passed legislation to require states provide data on mentally unsound individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, with the aim of halting gun purchases by the mentally ill, and others prohibited from possessing firearms. The bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush in January of 2008.

  • 2008: Supreme Court Strikes Down D.C. Handgun Ban As Unconstitutional

    In June of 2008, the United States Supreme Court upheld the verdict of a lower court ruling the D.C. handgun ban unconstitutional in the landmark case <em>District of Columbia v. Heller</em>.

  • Gabrielle Giffords And Trayvon Martin Shootings

    Gun control advocates had high hopes that reform efforts would have increased momentum in the wake of two tragic events that rocked the nation. In January of 2011, Jared Loughner opened fire at an event held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), killing six and injuring 13, including the congresswoman. Resulting attempts to push gun control legislation <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">proved fruitless</a>, with neither proposal even succeeding in gaining a single GOP co-sponsor. More than a year after that shooting, Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/trayvon-martin" target="_hplink">gunned down</a> by George Zimmerman in an event that some believed would bring increased scrutiny on the nation's Stand Your Ground laws. While there has been increasing discussion over the nature of those statutes, lawmakers were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">quick to concede</a> that they had little faith the event would effectively spur gun control legislation, thanks largely to the National Rifle Association's vast lobbying power. Read more <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">here</a>:

  • Colorado Movie Theater Shooting

    In July of 2012, a heavily armed gunman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/aurora-shooting-movie-theater-batman_n_1688547.html" target="_hplink">opened fire on theatergoers</a> attending a midnight premiere of the final film of the latest Batman trilogy, killing 12 and wounding scores more. The suspect, James Eagan Holmes, allegedly carried out the act with a number of handguns, as well as an AR-15 assault rifle with a 100-round drum magazine. Some lawmakers used the incident, which took place in a state with some of the laxest gun control laws, to bring forth legislation designed to place increased regulations on access to such weapons, but many observers, citing previous experience, were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/batman-shooting_n_1690547.html" target="_hplink">hesitant to say</a> that they would be able to overcome the power of the National Rifle Association and Washington gun lobby.

  • Sikh Temple Shooting

    On August 5, 2012, white supremacist Wade Michael Page opened fire on a Sikhs gathered at a temple in Oak Creek, Wis., killing six and wounding four more before turning the gun on himself.