House votes to end energy loan guarantee program

Associated Press Modified: September 14, 2012 at 12:01 pm •  Published: September 14, 2012
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans on Friday pushed a bill through the House shining a campaign-season light on the most conspicuous failure of President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package. The bill would phase out federal loan guarantees like those that went to the now-bankrupt solar power company Solyndra LLC and left taxpayers on the hook for more than $500 million.

The "No More Solyndras Act," which passed on a mainly party-line vote, has no chance of advancing in the Democratic-led Senate and was assailed by House Democrats as an election-year stunt. The vote was 245-161.

The bill would curtail an Energy Department loan guarantee program that was the source of the more than $500 million investment in Solyndra. It was part of the $787 billion stimulus package enacted shortly after Obama took office in 2009.

The Fremont, Calif.-based company was the first renewable energy company to receive a federal loan guarantee under the stimulus, and its financial woes in the face of Chinese competition made it a target for Republican scrutiny. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in September 2011, and under its reorganization plan, taxpayers would lose almost all of their investment.

The bill would require the Treasury to review any future Energy loan guarantees made before the program expires and reaffirm that it is forbidden to "subordinate" loans so that private investors are repaid before the government is.

"I'm stunned by the cavalier manner in which the administration squandered all of these tax dollars yet says it has no regrets, no apologies, about its handling of the program," said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "Burning money is one source of energy that the country doesn't need."

The measure was approved by Upton's committee in early August, along with the results of an 18-month investigation by committee Republicans concluding the administration was determined to make Solyndra a stimulus success story despite evidence that it was headed for failure. The report said the Energy Department knowingly violated the law when it restructured the loan last year so as to subordinate taxpayer interests to those of private investors.

One of the private equity funds that takes repayment priority is an investment vehicle for a foundation headed by billionaire George Kaiser, a major Obama campaign contributor.

Democrats dismissed the report as partisan and one-sided and said Republicans failed to prove their argument that the loan was made for political reasons. The White House said the president strongly believed it was the right decision to invest in clean energy technologies.

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