A Republican legislator broke with the pack this week when it came to his party’s unrelenting critiques of the Obama Administration’s support for clean energy initiatives, equating them with finger-pointing, and advising his fellow GOP colleagues to take a long, hard, look in the mirror concerning their own political support for energy projects.
Rep. Mike Simpson’s (R-ID) surprisingly strident counter-offensive on his fellow Republicans first came about while he was questioning David Frantz, acting director of the Department of Energy’s loan programs office, in a hearing on Tuesday.
During the hearing, Simpson compared his own recurring meetings with the Energy Department in advance of the Department’s granting of a $2 billion loan guarantee for a nuclear project in his home state of Idaho to the contact Obama Administration officials had with the Department of Energy over various projects, including Solyndra.
Republican lawmakers have criticized the White House’s contact with the Energy Department as a form of undue political pressure.
“Did I put undue influence on the administration?” Simpson asked, rhetorically, Environment and Energy Daily reported, “Maybe.”
Simpson was also interviewed after the hearing and asked “whether some of his colleagues have been too caught up in finding a political smoking gun on Solyndra.”
Simpson’s response, according to Environment and Energy Daily:
“Maybe,” he said, before acknowledging that he was reluctant to bring up the issue at the hearing.
Simpson also told the outlet that Republicans in Congress criticizing the Administration for applying political pressure to grant energy loan guarantees could be guilty of doing the same thing.
Indeed, TPM and other news outlets have repeatedly reported about the fact that several prominent Republican critics of the Administration’s clean energy support — including Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), both of whom are leading separate investigations into the Energy Department’s loan program — have themselves petitioned the Department to support projects in their districts.
Asked about his comments in Tuesday’s hearing, Simpson responded in an email to TPM:
“I was trying to make a very simple point that while we look at the role politics might play in the Administration’s decision-making, perhaps we should also be looking at the role it plays in our own decision-making,” said Congressman Mike Simpson. “If we are going to have these loan programs, then I want politics removed from the decision-making process so we don’t end up with more Solyndras in the future. And if we are going to remove politics from the process, it is incumbent upon Members of Congress to reflect on their own actions as much as they reflect on the actions of others, including the Administration. I’m less interested in pointing fingers and more interested in protecting taxpayers from having this happen to them again in the future.”
The Obama Administration’s support for clean energy first came under harsh scrutiny following the bankruptcy of solar panel manufacturing company Solyndra in August 2011. The company had previously received a half-billion dollar loan guarantee and then some from the Department of Energy.
Simpson’s comments aren’t likely to be music to the ears of Republican legislators who have made it into a crusade to find wrongdoing in the Energy Department’s handling of clean energy loans. But if anything, they do indicate that the GOP line-of-attack on clean energy support and Solyndra in particular is wearing thin, even to fellow Republicans…running out of gas, so to speak.