House subpoenas White House for Solyndra documents

Data bid raises party tensions

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Showing a growing frustration with the Obama administration, congressional Republicans on Thursday authorized their second subpoena this week, this time demanding documents from the White House on contacts that President Obama’s top aides might have had with failed solar-technology company Solyndra.

The 14-9 party-line vote authorized the subpoena a day after another panel approved a subpoena for Homeland Security Department deportation records. Taken together, they underscored a sense among Republicans that the White House is selective with the information it releases.

Democrats said it was unprecedented to subpoena the White House on Solyndra in this fashion, but Republicans said they have run out of patience with administration “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 of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Republicans are seeking any White House documents related to the solar-panel manufacturer, which received special attention from the White House, was approved for $535 million in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees, borrowed $528 million, then filed for bankruptcy two months ago.

**FILE** An auction sign is shown outside the Fremont, Calif., headquarters for bankrupt solar company Solyndra headquarters on Oct. 31, 2011, before the auction on the following day. Solyndra received a $500 million loan guarantee from the government before filing for bankruptcy in September. (Associated Press)

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**FILE** An auction sign is shown outside the Fremont, Calif., headquarters for ... more >

Democrats said the GOP’s request was so broad that it could even include Mr. Obama’s travel plans or his BlackBerry.

Both of this week’s votes authorized subpoenas, but didn’t issue them. That decision will be made by the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee in Solyndra’s case, or of the Judiciary Committee in the case of the deportation data.

Together, they mark an escalation in tension between Congress and the administration, as Republicans become increasingly aggressive in pushing back against what they see as stonewalling of their new majority in the House.

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 that 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, Colorado Democrat and ranking member on the investigations panel.

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

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

Republicans point to a lengthy effort to obtain documents, and said it is only when the committee begins to threaten subpoenas that action is taken.

Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican and chairman of the full committee, said several more boxes of documents were released to the press Wednesday night even before they were turned over to the committee. Those documents reportedly show that the Obama administration mulled a bailout of Solyndra 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.

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