House Republicans on Friday passed a bill designed to block new loan guarantees for innovative energy projects like the failed Solyndra solar panel company that went bankrupt one year ago taking $535 million in taxpayers’ money with it.
The measure passed mostly along party lines, 245 yeas to 161 nays, with 22 Democrats voting in favor of the bill and four Republicans voting against it.
The legislation says no more applications submitted to the Energy Department after Dec. 31, 2011 can be considered for funding, effectively phasing out the program.
However, the government stopped accepting all applications for the program on that date, so $34 billion in loans will still be distributed to alternative energy companies that qualify.
The Senate has not indicated any interest in ending the program, which Republicans say gives money to technology businesses favored by the Obama administration, so the bill is unlikely to see final passage by Congress this session or the president’s signature making the language law.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee conducted an 18-month investigation of the Solyndra loan and reviewed more than 300,000 pages of documents turned over by Obama administration officials.
Committee investigators on the Republican staff concluded that top officials knew Solyndra was a bad bet, but rushed the loan guarantee approval process so it could be used for publicity purposes. The investigation also determined that the law was knowingly violated when the loan was restructured to subordinate taxpayers’ interest to the interests of private investors.
“Why did they want to make Solyndra a success? Because it was a poster child” for alternative energy, said Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), the bill’s sponsor. “This bill is absolutely required. We should not risk taxpayer loans for any more of these loan guarantees if it’s going to endanger taxpayer money.”
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said the bill would protect taxpayers against another politically motivated spending binge from the Obama administration.
“The inept largesse of Big Government bureaucrats has got to stop,” Foxx said.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) voted against the bill, yet chided Republicans for naming the measure “no more Solyndra,” without actually ending the program.
“Let’s be clear, this does not terminate the loan guarantee, it does not phase it out, it doesn’t sunset it, it leaves it in place,” Waxman said. “It allows the Energy Department to use its existing authority to issue $34 billion in new loan guarantees. The Energy Department can issue new loans tomorrow, next year, twenty years from now. This bill has no end date for this program,” Waxman said.