Without any Democratic support, House Republicans on Thursday voted to subpoena the Obama administration over all West Wing communications related to the federally-backed, now-bankrupt solar-energy company Solyndra dating back to President Obama’s inauguration in January 2009.
“We have made our case about the need for these documents,” House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said at a committee business meeting before the vote. “The White House has refused to produce them, and we have no choice but to authorize the issuance of a subpoena to compel them.”
“I will say it again: I wish it had not come to this,” Upton said.
White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler wrote the Republicans a letter last month saying the request was unrealistic and “implicates longstanding and significant institutional Executive Branch confidentiality interests.”
Last-minute efforts between members from both parties and the White House did not stave off the 14-9 subpoena vote.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz reiterated in a statement what the administration has maintained all along. “This administration has cooperated extensively with the committee's investigation by producing over 85,000 pages of documents, including 20,000 pages produced just yesterday afternoon. Administration officials have participated in multiple briefings and hearings, and the White House has also already provided over 900 pages of documents in response to requests we have received. And 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.”
“We are disappointed that the committee has refused to discuss their requests with us in good faith, and has instead chosen a partisan route, proceeding with subpoenas that are unprecedented and unwarranted,” Schultz added.
Upton said administration lawyers had contacted the committee with a “last-minute attempt to narrow the scope of our request.”
“Their lawyers did express a willingness to conduct a search of their internal communications for only those items in the categories they had identified,” Upton said. “While this is encouraging, it is insufficient. This is the sort of negotiation that should occur after the initial request for documents, not on the eve of a subpoena.”
And Upton didn’t rule out considering the White House’s proposal, which Democrats on the committee support.
“Any sign of cooperation is better late than never,” Upton said. “We fully intend to take last night’s proposal into consideration as we refine the scope of the subpoena and work with the White House on its document production.”
Democrats continued to protest before the vote.
“The American people want us to stop the partisanship and start focusing on their priorities,” said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., ranking member on the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, which is leading the investigation into Solyndra. “This meeting is a partisan diversion from the work we should be doing.”