The House and Senate Iran-contra committees yesterday approved a joint report on their 11-month inquiry, but eight of the 11 Republicans on the panels immediately denounced it as too critical of President Reagan and his administration and said they would publish a report of their own.
As a result, according to committee sources, the resulting volume will be made up of the 450-page majority report and the 150-page minority views of eight GOP members.
"We had hoped to agree at least on the narrative," one GOP committee source said yesterday, "but we felt the Democrats had overdone it."
Signing the majority report were all 16 House and Senate Democrats along with Sen. Warren B. Rudman (R-N.H.), vice chairman of the Senate panel; Sen. William S. Cohen (R-Maine), and Sen. Paul S. Trible Jr. (R-Va.).
House committee Chairman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.) told reporters after his panel's vote that the report of the committees would provide "enormous detail" but that it would have "no major surprises."
Later this year, the committees will also publish an extensive chronology of the entire Iran-contra affair as well as dozens of depositions taken from witnesses who did not appear at public sessions.
Committee sources said Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) dominated part of yesterday's House session by trying to get the panel to recommend establishment of a joint House-Senate intelligence committee to replace the two panels that currently exist. Hyde, according to sources, said this was one way to meet the problem of congressional leaks. His move was voted down by the committee.
However, the majority did agree to study stricter sanctions for leaking of material by members of either the executive or legislative branches.
Sources also said negotiations are still under way on the final inclusion in the majority and minority reports of material developed during the inquiry.
Faced with a massive printing problem and clearance by the White House and executive agencies of classified material, the committees now expect the report to be available for public release on Nov. 17, sources said.
Hyde said yesterday that the GOP report will be "critical of the administration, but at the same time not as doctrinaire" as the committee document.
Rep. Jim Courter (R-N.J.) was more vocal. He charged that the Democratic majority "tried to do in the report that which they couldn't do during the hearings. They tried as desperately as they could to besmirch the administration, to put the worst light on everything."
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), who often led the defense of the administration during the public hearings, was particularly critical of the report's handling of the president's knowledge of the diversion of funds from the Iranian arms sales to the contras.
"They do not accept the incontrovertible facts that the president did not know" about the diversion, said Hatch. "They say if he didn't know he should have known."
Yesterday afternoon, in an unexpected move, Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) unsuccessfully attempted to persuade the Senate to go on record as opposing prosecution of any witnesses before the Iran-contra committees unless they had committed perjury or crimes "for personal gain."
Helms made clear he was thinking specifically of Lt. Col. Oliver L. North in seeking support for his amendment, which he wanted attached to the joint resolution authorizing the report to be printed.
"Ollie North and others have been put through the wringer enough," Helms said in arguing for his measure.
It lost 91 to 4, with Hatch, who has publicly stated he did not want North or Rear Adm. John M. Poindexter prosecuted, the only panel member to support Helms.
In his meeting with reporters yesterday, Hamilton also said that the investigation had been conducted under "extraordinary handicaps," but "we did not blow the investigation."
He was responding to questions raised in the wake of an article in yesterday's Washington Post that outlined criticism of the inquiry from some House and Senate panel members and staff investigators.
"The paper trail was completely destroyed, the documents that would tell us the record were not available," he said. He and other members said that the death of former CIA director William J. Casey denied the panels a witness who they now believe played an important role in both the contra and Iran operations.
The majority report will recommend that some elements of the investigation be carried on by standing congressional committees, and members pointed out that independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh is continuing his criminal investigations.
The Iran-contra affair, Hamilton said, is "obviously . . . not yet concluded."