Voting on strictly partisan lines, a House committee recommended Wednesday that Attorney General Eric Holder be cited for contempt of Congress for failing to turn over documents relating to the botched Fast and Furious weapons sting operation.

The measure now goes to the full House for consideration, expected next week, of what would be an unprecedented event -- Congress holding a sitting attorney general in contempt.

"Unless the attorney general reevaluates his choice and supplies the promised documents, the House will vote to hold him in contempt next week," said a statement by the chamber's Republican leaders. "If, however, Attorney General Holder produces these documents prior to the scheduled vote, we will give the (committee) an opportunity to review in hopes of resolving this issue."

All 23 Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee supported the measure, while the 17 Democrats opposed it, reflecting the deep political divide on the issue.

The vote ended an extraordinary day-long hearing that took place after President Barack Obama asserted executive privilege over some documents sought by the panel investigating the Fast and Furious program.

Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, refused to put off consideration of the measure, saying the White House assertion of executive privilege "falls short" of any reason to delay the hearing.

However, Issa said after the hearing that he believes a settlement to avoid an unprecedented contempt vote in the House is "in the best interest of the Justice Department, Congress, and those most directly affected by Operation Fast and Furious."

In a statement later Wednesday, Holder called Issa's decision to hold the vote "an election-year tactic" and "an extraordinary, unprecedented and entirely unnecessary action, intended to provoke an avoidable conflict between Congress and the executive branch."

What happens if panel cites Holder for contempt?

The committee's top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, accused Issa of setting an "impossible standard" for Holder by initially demanding documents the attorney general is legally prohibited from providing. Now Issa has "no interest in resolving" the dispute with Holder, Cummings said.

Wednesday's developments further heightened the drama of a high-profile showdown between Issa and Holder over the Fast and Furious program that dates back to subpoenas issued by the House committee last year.

The White House move means the Department of Justice can withhold some of the documents from the committee.

In a letter to Obama seeking the assertion of executive privilege, Holder said the documents involved related to the Justice Department's "response to congressional oversight and related media inquiries," and that release of internal executive branch documents would have "significant, damaging consequences."

Holder also said releasing the documents would "inhibit the candor of executive branch deliberations in the future and significantly impair the ability of the executive branch to respond independently and effectively to congressional oversight."

A separate Justice Department letter to Issa made public minutes before Wednesday's committee meeting was scheduled to begin said Obama "has asserted executive privilege over the relevant post-February 4, 2011, documents."

"We regret that we have arrived at this point, after the many steps we have taken to address the committee's concerns and to accommodate the committee's legitimate oversight interests regarding Operation Fast and Furious," said the letter from Deputy Attorney General James Cole. "Although we are deeply disappointed that the committee appears intent on proceeding with a contempt vote, the department remains willing to work with the committee to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution of the outstanding issues."

The hearing started 20 minutes late as panel members digested Cole's letter, and Issa immediately made clear he intended to hold a vote on the contempt measure.

Issa's committee is specifically seeking documents that show why the Department of Justice decided to withdraw as inaccurate a February 2011 letter sent to Congress that said top officials had only recently learned about Fast and Furious.

Holder said he offered to turn over some of the documents sought by Issa when they met Tuesday in a final effort to resolve the dispute before Wednesday's hearing. Issa, however, said Holder put unreasonable conditions on his offer/

In a letter to Issa after Tuesday's meeting, Cole reiterated Holder's position that the documents would show Holder had nothing to hide about his role in Fast and Furious.