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Thursday, November 3, 2011

House subpoenas White House for Solyndra documents

GOP sees stonewalling across administration

Showing a growing frustration with the the Obama administration, congressional Republicans on Thursday authorized their second subpoena this week, demanding White House documents related to failed solar technology company Solyndra.

By a 14-9 party-line vote the Energy and Commerce Committee’s investigative subcommittee authorized issuing a subpoena for any White House documents related to Solyndra, which received renewable energy loan guarantees under President Obama’s stimulus program. The request for documents could include details of the president’s own travel and communications.

Democrats said it was “unprecedented” to subpoena documents from the president’s executive office like this, but Republicans said they’ve run out of patience with White House “stalling.”

“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, the Florida Republican who runs the investigative panel.

Thursday’s subpoena came just a day after the Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee voted along party lines to authorize a subpoena for Homeland Security records related to illegal immigrants the department has declined to pursue deportation cases against.

Together they mark an escalation as Republicans have become increasingly aggressive in pushing back against what they see as administration stonewalling of oversight by the new GOP majority in the House.

In each case, the vote only authorizes a subpoena. It’s up to the chairmen of the full committees to actually issue them.

Democrats said both votes were premature. They pointed to ongoing discussions between Homeland Security and the Judiciary Committee on the one hand, and between the White House and the Energy and Commerce Committee on the other, as evidence the administration is acting in good faith.

“The White House repeatedly said they had turned over documents and they were willing to turn over more documents,” said Rep. Diana DeGette, the ranking Democrat on the investigations panel.

She also said the administration has already turned over tens of thousands of documents.

Each side now argues the other is acting in bad faith.

Republicans point to a lengthy effort to get documents, and said it is only when the committee begins to threaten subpoenas that things shake loose.

Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican and chairman of the full committee, said several new boxes of documents were released to the press Wednesday night even before they were turned over to the committee. Those documents reportedly show the Obama administration mulled bailing Solyndra out just days before the solar panel manufacturer collapsed.

Democrats said they support legitimate requests for information and back the House’s right to investigate the administration. But they said the request for all potential Solyndra communications was a broad fishing expedition, and accused the GOP of short-circuiting usual negotiations.

“Apparently what the committee really wants is a confrontation with the president,” said Rep. Henry A. Waxman, the top Democrat on the full Energy and Commerce Committee.

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