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Republicans vote to subpoena White House in Solyndra case

A GOP-controlled committee demands more documents for its inquiry into a loan guarantee. Democrats say the request is too broad.

November 04, 2011|By Neela Banerjee, Washington Bureau
  • Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is chairman of the GOP-controlled House Energy and Commerce Committee, which voted to subpoena more White House documents in the Solyndra case.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is chairman of the GOP-controlled House Energy… (Tom Williams, Roll Call )

Reporting from Washington — The Republican-controlled House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to issue a broad subpoena demanding more documents from the White House as part of the committee's investigation into a government loan guarantee for the failed solar equipment maker Solyndra.

In a vote along party lines, the committee's subcommittee on oversight approved a draft subpoena that calls for all "internal communications" among top White House staff during the period in 2009 when Solyndra sought a $535-million loan guarantee from the government, through its financial troubles in 2010 and, ultimately, during its move toward bankruptcy protection two months ago.

"The committee still hopes to work with the White House to obtain relevant communications from key personnel such as former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, former National Economic Council Director Larry Summers and Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice President [Joe] Biden," the committee's Republicans said in a statement.

White House officials met with Republicans and Democrats from the committee on Wednesday and released 20,000 pages of documents that the Republicans dismissed as redundant. The various sides failed to strike a compromise regarding the Republicans' request.

"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," said White House spokesman Eric Schultz in an emailed statement. "We are disappointed that the committee has refused to discuss their requests with us in good faith, and has instead chosen a partisan route."

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the committee, said he would finalize a subpoena and would take into account White House offers to cooperate. But committee Democrats decried the sweeping nature of the subpoena and insisted on a vote when the language and scope of the subpoena are ready.

The White House did not answer repeated questions about whether it would heed the subpoena. White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said in an earlier letter to the committee that she believed the documents the administration had produced adequately addressed the committee's goal of understanding the White House role, which suggests that the administration might not comply with the new subpoena.

Stanley Brand, a former counsel to the House, said enforcement of such a subpoena would be difficult. "They don't have a quick way to enforce it," Brand said. "So they can issue as many subpoenas as they want."

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