House panel to vote on White House subpoena for Solyndra documents

A House Energy and Commerce Committee panel will vote next week on whether to subpoena the White House for documents on the Solyndra case.

Republicans scheduled a meeting of the committee’s investigative panel for Thursday, Nov. 3, to vote on a resolution to authorize a White House subpoena. The meeting comes after the White House rejected Republicans’ request for all internal communications related to Solyndra.

“Subpoenaing the White House is a serious step that, unfortunately, appears necessary in light of the Obama administration’s stonewall on Solyndra,” Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), who chairs the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, said in a statement. “What is the White House trying to hide from the American public?”

If Republicans approve the resolution next week, it would mark the second time that the committee has subpoenaed the Obama administration for Solyndra documents.

The subcommittee voted in July to subpoena the White House Office of Management and Budget for documents related to the 2009 Energy Department loan guarantee to the company.

The July subpoena was issued before Solyndra filed for bankruptcy in early September and laid off 1,100 workers.

Earlier this month, White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler rejected Republicans’ request for all White House internal emails and documents related to the Solyndra loan.

Ruemmler noted that the White House Office of Management and Budget, the Treasury Department and the Energy Department have provided more than 70,000 pages of documents in recent months to Republicans. She also said that 900 pages of communications between the White House and Solyndra (and its investors and representatives) have been released in response to the GOP-led probe.

The documents that have been provided by the administration “should satisfy the committee’s stated objective,” Ruemmler said in a letter to the committee.

“Your most recent request for internal White House communications from the first day of the current administration to the present implicates longstanding and institutional executive-branch confidentiality interests,” the letter says.

But top Republicans on the committee doubled down on their request for the documents last week.

“The fact that other agencies are in the process of attempting to comply with our request for documents does not excuse the White House from producing its own responsive documents,” the letter from committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Stearns said in an Oct. 18 letter.

“Our request to the White House is not duplicative of our requests to other executive-branch agencies.”

Ruemmler again rejected Republicans’ request for the White House documents in an Oct. 25 letter.

Stearns noted Friday that the White House has not yet asserted executive privilege, which would bar lawmakers from obtaining the documents.

"While we, of course, respect Executive Privilege, the White House Counsel – in two separate letters to the Committee – has not asserted it," Stearns said. "Moreover, we fail to see why internal White House communications about a loan guarantee to a solar panel manufacturer would implicate issues of national security or the other foundations upon which the Supreme Court has recognized the Privilege."

Republicans have alleged that politics played a role in the approval of the loan guarantee and the decision to restructure the financing agreement in February.

The White House strongly denies those allegations.

The investigation has not uncovered evidence of political favoritism, but emails show that the White House pressed administration officials to make a swift decision on helping Solyndra. They also show that there was disagreement within the administration on the wisdom of approving the loan guarantee.

-- This story was updated at 3:02 p.m.