Republican-Led House Passes Bill to Block Energy Loans

The U.S. House passed legislation to end an energy loan-guarantee program, the culmination of a Republican-led investigation into the collapse of solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC last year.

The “No More Solyndras Act,” adopted by a 245-161 vote, wouldn’t immediately halt the loan program. It would prevent the Energy Department from considering applications for government backing submitted since Dec. 31. With $34 billion in loan authority remaining, Democrats said the bill would let nuclear-power projects favored by Republicans go forward.

The Democratic-led Senate isn’t considering a similar bill, which means the program probably won’t end. The vote did allow House Republicans to highlight what has become a political embarrassment for President Barack Obama, who visited Solyndra’s California factory in May 2010 and said it showed clean energy wasn’t “just an article of faith.” The company, which won a $535 million U.S. guarantee in 2009, collapsed last year.

“It is amazing to me that the administration gave a half-billion dollar loan guarantee to a company its own experts predicted would fail, a company so dysfunctional that it burned through this giant handout and went bankrupt in just two years,” said Representative Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The bill applies to the loan program for alternative energy projects, including wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear and cleaner coal efforts. It wouldn’t apply to a separate loan program for advanced-technology vehicles.

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While Solyndra collapsed in September 2011, it has had a second life in political ads. Republican nominee Mitt Romney has cited the company to show what he says is the administration’s broader failure to revive the economy.

Solyndra’s loan was financed by the 2009 economic stimulus bill, though the loan-guarantee program was authorized during the administration of Republican George W. Bush.

Representative Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican, said documents collected during the Energy and Commerce Committee’s investigation showed White House political appointees had a “heavy hand” in pushing the loan to Solyndra.

Democrats said Republicans didn’t back-up allegations that Solyndra won the guarantee because of political connections to the White House. The panel issued three subpoenas, conducted five hearings and reviewed more than 300,000 documents.

A foundation tied to George Kaiser, an Oklahoma billionaire and fundraiser for Obama, was a leading investor in the company.

Obama administration officials said Solyndra’s award was granted on the merits of its application. Kaiser told investigators on the committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee that he didn’t lobby to get the company the loan.

The vote was designed to embarrass the administration, Democrats led by Representative Henry Waxman of California said.

“It isn’t going to pass the Senate,” said Representative John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat. “It isn’t going to be signed by the president. It grandfathers everybody in and says, ‘There will be nothing new.’”

The bill is H.R. 6213.

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