After eight months investigating the half-billion dollar Solyndra loan guarantee, House Republicans are turning the heat up even more on the Obama administration.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton announced Friday that next Thursday the Subcommitee on Oversight and Investigations will discuss whether to subpoena the White House for additional documents related to the Solyndra case. In a joint statement with Florida Rep. Cliff Stearns, Upton said the subpoena would be a "serious step," in the investigation; however, they believe it is necessary given what they're calling the administration's "stonewall on Solyndra." "It is alarming for the Obama White House to cast aside its vows of transparency and block Congress from learning more about the roles that those in the White House and other members of the administration played in the Solyndra mess," the Republicans say in the statement.
According to a timeline provided by the committee, the Energy and Commerce chair, Upton, and Stearns, who heads up the oversight subcommittee, started requesting documents from the administration in February. After Solyndra declared bankruptcy in August, the investigation ramped up, and through a number of hearings and letters on the loan guarantee program and Solyndra, House Republicans have been pushing hard on the White House and the Department of Energy for more information.
The White House has so far released documents, like E-mails, that reveal interactions between White House staff and external agencies; the proposed subpoena would force the White House to produce its own internal documents related to the case. "To determine the extent of the West Wing's involvement as critical decisions were being made about whether to proceed with the loan, it is essential to consider White House staff's communications with one another," the Republicans noted.
To date, the White House and Energy Secretary Steven Chu have defended their decision to award Solyndra the $535 million loan guarantee, claiming that the program was bipartisan and approved under the previous administration. President Obama has also made clear that his administration knew that the loan guarantee carried risk, by nature, from the start. The White House also emphasized that the decision was made by career professionals at the Energy Department rather than by its own staff.
Facing criticism for months, the White House also announced Friday that it would begin its own review of the Energy Department's loan guarantee program.
Though the White House has been able to keep the failed loan guarantee from becoming a political gamechanger for the administration, a subpoena could make that more difficult--especially if the House Republicans can prove any negligence or behind-the-scenes influence from top White House officials in awarding the loan in the first place in 2009, or in restructuring the loan earlier this year. And for Republicans, even by just keeping attention on the $535 million in taxpayer money down the hole, Solyndra will continue to be useful political ammo.