Senate Sitting Out Solyndra Saga (National Journal)
October 20, 2011
Posted by Matt Dempsey email@example.com
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Senate Sitting Out Solyndra Saga
by Amy Harder
House Republicans can't get enough of Solyndra. Senate Democrats across the Capitol? Not so interested.
"I certainly appreciate the hearings the House has held," Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said on Wednesday. "And I think it would be good if we did more here [on the Senate side] to call to light obviously all the issues with Solyndra."
Two committees in the Republican-controlled House are probing the solar manufacturer's spiral into bankruptcy after receiving a $535 million federal loan guarantee in 2009.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee has examined the matter three times already and plans to hear from top administration officials, such as Energy Secretary Steven Chu. It and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are reviewing tens of thousands of pages of documents about that guarantee.
The investigation is probing decisions top administration officials made in approving the loan guarantee and throughout the two years the government was on the hook for Solyndra's loan.
But the Democratic-controlled Senate has not held a Solyndra hearing and has no plans to.
Some Republican senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions of Alabama, have cited Solyndra when claiming that President Obama's green-jobs agenda hurt the economy and wasted taxpayer money. But floor speeches do not carry the same weight as a Senate hearing.
Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., seems less than enthusiastic about probing the company's loan guarantee and the administration's role in the saga.
"Frankly, there's been lots of talk about Solyndra," Bingaman said last week. "I don't think we can add a lot of insight on that subject. There are various investigations going. Whatever they turn up, it's what they turn up."
"I'd like to do more on it," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said on Wednesday. "We're not in the majority so we don't really control the agenda on these issues."
The Senate has examined other major issues in the energy and environment arena, including Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year.
"We had seven hearings on the oil spill within two months," said Robert Dillon, spokesman for Energy and Natural Resources ranking member Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. "That's the difference of what they're doing on Solyndra and what they did for Deepwater Horizon."
The House also held dozens of hearings into the oil spill.
When Obama visited Solyndra's California headquarters in May 2010, he described the manufacturer as "the true engine of economic growth." When Solyndra shut its doors in August, it laid off 1,100 employees.
"I think there is some reluctance over here among the majority to try to do more on that issue," said GOP Conference Policy Chairman Sen. John Thune of South Dakota.
At least one Democrat on Bingaman's committee would like the Senate to get in on the action.
"I'm certainly open to that approach," said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo. "We ought to find out what happened, but we can also, for example, look at where the loan guarantee program is working."