After rejecting an eleventh-hour offer from White House Counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, which would have provided fewer internal documents than they had been demanding, the House Energy and Commerce Committee members voted 14 to nine, along party lines, to subpoena the Executive Office.
For the past eight weeks, the committee has been conducting an investigation into a USD$535 million loan guarantee made under Obamas watch to Solyndra, the California-based solar company that filed for bankruptcy in September. Since then, the company has become a focal point for Republican opposition to government investments in clean energy.
"I regret that we have reached this point," said Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), the chairman of the committees Oversight and Investigations subcommittee – and the GOPs point man on the Solyndra investigation.
Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), however, was not apologetic. "With the Solyndra loan, we smelled a rat from the beginning, and the investigation proved we were on the right track," he said, noting, "Sometimes, in the course of an investigation, we find ourselves unable to secure necessary evidence. House Rules expressly give us the power of subpoena to compel cooperation in these instances. It is a tool we use sparingly and only as a last resort. Today, it is our last resort."
From the other side of the aisle, on the same committee, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) wrote to their colleagues saying that they "should provide the White House an opportunity to follow through on [Ruemmlers] commitment. By doing so, the committee would not give up any rights to seek additional information from the White House or to ultimately issue a subpoena, if it does reach an impasse."
They also provided details on the documents that the White House counsel had proffered, which would have enlightened the committee on:
- The influence of campaign contributions on the decision whether or not to grant or restructure the Solyndra loan guarantee;
- Involvement by the White House in the decision whether or not to make a conditional commitment to Solyndra for its loan guarantee;
- Involvement by the White House in the decision whether or not to close the Solyndra loan guarantee; and
- Involvement by the White House in the decision to subordinate the governments interest as part of the restructuring or the Solyndra loan guarantee.
DeGette characterized the vote as a "sad day" for the committee and "an act of irresponsible partisanship."
White House spokesman, Eric Schultz said the Administration already had "cooperated extensively with the committee’s investigation by producing over 85,000 pages of documents, including 20,000 pages produced just yesterday afternoon. Administration officials have participated in multiple briefings and hearings, and the White House has also already provided over 900 pages of documents in response to requests we have received. And all of the materials that have been disclosed affirm what we said on day one: This was a merit-based decision made by the Department of Energy."
He added, "We are disappointed that the committee has refused to discuss their requests with us in good faith, and has instead chosen a partisan route, proceeding with subpoenas that are unprecedented and unwarranted."