House Republicans Thursday subpoenaed the White House and the vice president to obtain information related to the government's loan guarantees for failed solar power company Solyndra.
Solyndra received a loan guarantee for $535 million in 2009 and went bankrupt two months ago. Shortly after the bankruptcy, the FBI raided Solyndra offices and the home of the president of Solyndra.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has been investigating whether the White House inappropriately pushed the Office of Management and Budget to approve the loan, and inappropriately restructured Solyndra's loan. Questions have also been raised about the involvement of Obama fundraiser and Solyndra investor George Kaiser, an Oklahoma billionaire.
“Uncooperative conduct has necessitated this vote,” Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said. Stearns complained that the White House has been unresponsive to repeated attempts by his committee to obtain more information related to the Solyndra investigation.
Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) argued that the subpoenas were an act of “irresponsible partisanship.” She agreed that the White House needs to produce the documents that the committee has requested, but argued that the White House has been cooperative so far, noting that it has supplied almost 1,000 pages of documents so far, so the subpoenas are unnecessary.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) agreed, saying that a subpoena “should only happen if there is an unbridgeable impasse. ... That is not the case today.”
“We smelled a rat from the start,” Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said. “I wish it had not come to this, but it has.”
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) said he worried that the Solyndra scandal “has tainted the entire alternative energy loan guarantee program.” While admitting that many in his party would like to do away with the program altogether, Barton said, “I happen to be a supporter.”
Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) argued that Republicans are issuing the subpoenas because they are backing an effort by the oil and gas industry to shut down the alternative energy industry, which they view as a threat to their profitability.
In a late attempt to prevent the subpoenas, the White House released another 1,200 pages of documents Wednesday night. Those documents show that the administration paid investment banking firm Lazard Ltd. $1 million to recommend options for the failing Solyndra. One option the firm suggested was to arrange a government bailout of the company. That option was rejected shortly before the Solyndra plant shut down.
On Sunday, Beacon Power Corp., another solar power company that received a loan guarantee through the same government program as Solyndra, declared bankruptcy.
Today's subpoena will mark the first time that the Obama White House has been issued a subpoena by Congress.