Administration Obstruction Crosses New Threshold
WASHINGTON, DC - As the failed $821 billion billion government stimulus program is quickly winding down, the national unemployment rate stands at 9.1 percent and the Obama administration and House Democrats are now clamoring for more stimulus spending. Against this backdrop, the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce is investigating how the U.S. Department of Energy has administered and awarded billions of dollars in loan guarantees authorized under the stimulus. The subcommittee convened a hearing today to hear from a top administration official about the program and press for answers about why the Office of Management and Budget refuses to produce key documents for congressional investigators. Despite Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns' (R-FL) urging OMB Director Jacob Lew for cooperation, OMB Deputy Director Jeffrey Zients did not show up.
Dating back to a March 14 request, the Committee leaders have pressed the Office of Management and Budget for key documents and information concerning the review of the Solyndra loan guarantee, but OMB has refused to produce all of the documents.
Despite repeated promises to produce the documents, OMB has only produced 8 emails to date
Subcommittee Chairman Stearns highlighted the status of the investigation at the beginning of the abbreviated hearing, stating, "Instead of producing all communications relating to Solyndra, as Mr. Zients and I had discussed, OMB took it upon itself to select just eight emails that were exchanged between DOE and OMB in late August 2009, just one week before the Solyndra loan closed. According to OMB staff, they made their own determination that it was not necessary for this Committee to see any other emails, including OMB's own internal emails. In their opinion, these eight emails were all the Committee needed to see. OMB's position demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the Constitutional roles of Congress and the Executive Branch."
With OMB's no-show, subpoenas now a possibility
With regards to the ongoing investigation, Stearns stated, "I had hoped that Deputy Director Zients would have viewed this hearing as I do: OMB's last chance to finally - and fully - answer the Committee's questions about OMB's role in reviewing the Solyndra guarantee and turn over the requested documents. However, OMB chose once again to delay and frustrate this Committee's efforts to resolve this matter. I believe the time has come for the Committee to fulfill its oversight obligations and responsibility and pursue this information together, if we can, with the ranking member and the Democrats to move this investigation forward. And ultimately if we can agree or not agree we might move to possibly a subpoena."
Background on Stimulus Loan Guarantee Investigation
Committee leaders are investigating DOE's use of stimulus funds, particularly the department's highly publicized $535 million stimulus loan guarantee awarded to Solyndra of Fremont, California. OMB is responsible for reviewing and approving the Credit Subsidy Costs of all DOE loan guarantees.
Since the loan guarantee was closed in September 2009, Solyndra has suffered a number of financial setbacks, including the cancellation of a planned public offering in June 2010 and repeated problems with cash flow. The firm has closed one of its factories, laid off workers, and postponed the expansion of the plant that had received the loan guarantee, resulting in the cancellation of a planned hiring spree that had been touted to include as many as 1,000 additional workers. The week of March 7, DOE modified Solyndra's loan guarantee and Solyndra announced a new $75 million loan from its existing investors in an effort to save the company by restructuring its outstanding debts and reducing costs.
For a detailed accounting of OMB's repeated delays, please visit the Energy and Commerce Committee website by clicking HERE.
Stearns' full opening statement can be viewed HERE.