It doesn’t have a prayer in the Senate, Harry Reid not particularly anxious to highlight the high profile failure of a signature administration program. But at least the House is on record for being a little more solicitous of the taxpayer dime.
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.
What the bill doesn’t address is the cronyism involved in many of those loans. While the Inspector General report on Solyndra refused to make the political connection to the recipients, the IG did finger the Department of Energy for rushing review of the loan. Secretary Choo promised reforms in the review process, but such tinkering is irrelevant. The government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers — especially when the winner is a major contributor to the president’s recently concluded campaign. And the taxpayer should never be put in a position where private investors are paid off before they are.