March 4, 2010— -- A war is emerging between Congress and the White House over high-profile stimulus programs that lawmakers claim aren't serving the American people.
Senate Democrats lashed out at the Obama administration on Wednesday, saying its stimulus wind energy program creates jobs overseas instead of in the U.S., and they're calling for the administration to put a stop to it.
"Today, we are demanding the Obama administration suspend this program immediately," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
The program has already spent $2 billion, funding enough projects to power 2.4 million homes. Any wind farm created in the U.S. is eligible for stimulus money to put up wind turbines, regardless of where those massive structures are made. Each turbine costs about $3 million, and reaches 40 stories into the sky.
An investigation by ABC News and the Investigative Reporting Workshop found that 79 percent of the program's money has gone to foreign companies, money that Schumer said was "federal tax dollars, the stimulus, which was sold as jobs in America."
The senators are especially alarmed about a project highlighted by ABC News in West Texas that uses turbines manufactured in China. The Texas wind farm is eligible for up to $450 million in stimulus funds.
The company that is helping to finance the wind project, US-REG, issued a statement Wednesday saying that the majority of jobs created by the project will be for Americans.
"A minimum of 70 percent of each wind turbine [...] will be wholly manufactured in the United States and made entirely of American steel. It is incorrect to assume that the hundreds of additional jobs created aside from the direct construction and operation of the Texas plant would be outside the U.S.," said Cappy McGarr, managing partner for the U.S. Renewable Energy Group.
The frustrated senators are concerned, though, that some of the money is also paying for manufacturing jobs in China, and they are pushing a bill requiring that stimulus projects create jobs in the United States. They want the wind energy program stopped before the Chinese turbine manufacturers can collect any money.
In a statement Wednesday, the Energy Department insisted that the wind program does create jobs in the U.S. and said that "suspending it now would cause immediate layoffs of American workers at American manufacturing plants."
They did say, though, that the Obama Administration is willing to work with Congress to make improvements.