A House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee voted Thursday along partisan lines to subpoena White House documents related to Solyndra, the politically connected solar company and flagship of the Obama administration's green energy program that received a half-billion dollar federal loan before going bankrupt.
The vote in the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee split along party lines, 14 to 9. The Republican majority said the subpoenas were necessary because the Obama administration had delayed or rebuffed requests for documents related to the California solar panel maker. The Democratic minority said the White House has been cooperating.
"We simply cannot allow the executive branch at its highest levels to pick and choose what they will produce, or whether they will produce anything at all," said Rep. Cliff Stearns, R.-Florida, who heads the subcommittee.
"I wish it had not come to this," said Rep. Fred Upton, R.-Michigan, who chairs the full committee. "[The subpoena] is a tool we use sparingly, and only as a last resort. Today, it is our last resort."
Rep. Henry Waxman of California, top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said that the Republicans were seeking conflict. "Apparently, what the committee really wants is a confrontation with the President," said Rep. Waxman. Rep. Diana DeGette, D.-Colorado, ranking member on the subcommittee, said that the White House had turned over thousands of documents and had indicated its willingness to turn over more. Both she and Rep. John Dingell, D.-Michigan, put forward unsuccessful motions to delay the subpoenas.
The Obama administration had selected Solyndra as the first to receive a loan under an Energy Department program designed to provide government support to companies that would create jobs while generating energy from cleaner sources, such as solar, wind and nuclear. President Obama personally visited the Solyndra complex, hailing it as a leader in this emerging field.
In August, though, Solyndra abruptly shut its doors, laying off 1,100 workers. Within days, it had declared bankruptcy. The House Energy and Commerce Committee's investigative subcommittee has held two hearings intending to unwind the deal and understand how signs of Solyndra's financial trouble had been overlooked by the Department of Energy.
A week after Solyndra's bankruptcy filing, Federal agents searched the company's California headquarters, and visited the homes of Harrison, company founder Chris Gronet and a former executive.
In March, ABC News, in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity's iWatch News, began reporting on simmering questions about the role political influence may have played in Solyndra's selection as the Obama administration's first loan guarantee recipient.
Damien LaVera, an Energy Department spokesman, has told ABC News that politics never entered the decision to grant the loan, or restructure it earlier this year. LaVera said the department decided it was worth trying to redo the terms to try and salvage the government's initial investment.
"[P]olitical or optical considerations took a backseat to putting the company and its workers in a better position to succeed and repay the loan," he said.