Deficit reduction efforts and federal appropriations continue to hold the spotlight in Washington, D.C., as clean energy issues and green jobs face heightened scrutiny.
After the House passed a continuing resolution last week, the Democratic Senate blocked the funding bill September 23 on a 59-36 vote, intensifying a fight between the two houses of Congress ahead of a September 30 deadline to keep the federal government operating. The disagreement centers around disaster relief funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, whose accounts are depleted this week without additional aid; House Republicans want the funding to be partially offset with spending cuts to programs considered Democratic priorities, such as $100 million from the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program. The House bill would keep the government funded through November 18, at which time an omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2012 would need to be enacted, or another stopgap continuing resolution would have to be put in place to keep the government open. Both chambers were scheduled for recess this week, but at least the Senate, and possibly the House, will need to remain in Washington to pass a continuing resolution. Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a vote on the package for Monday evening, with cuts to the DOE loan guarantee program removed.
President Obama proposed a $4.4 trillion deficit reduction plan to Congress September 19 that includes a combination of $1.5 trillion in savings from the tax code and a higher tax rate for millionaires and billionaires. Of the total, $1.2 trillion comes from discretionary spending cuts already enacted; $580 billion in cuts from mandatory programs; $1.1 trillion from troop withdrawals; $1.5 trillion from tax reform; and $430 billion in interest savings. Congressional Republicans have already blasted the plan as not credible, and even “class warfare,” thus intensifying the already polarized debate over federal spending as a whole.
By now a household name, Solyndra continues to serve as fodder for Republican scrutiny. After receiving a $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy in 2009, the first awarded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the company declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this month. The FBI and the inspectors general of the Energy and Treasury departments are investigating the loan guarantee. On Friday, Solyndra President Brian Harrison and CFO Bill Stover testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, repeatedly invoking the Fifth Amendment.
Previously in the week, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) said that his Oversight and Government Reform Committee would investigate government loan programs to private corporations in light of allegations of improper dealings between the White House and Solyndra as well as wireless startup company LightSquared. The Committee issued a report last week, How Obama’s Green Energy Agenda Is Killing Jobs, which highlights the larger argument clean energy opponents will continue to make in the coming weeks and months. The Obama administration has continued to defend itself against criticism that it exerted improper influence to the aid of both companies while also defending the president’s green technology initiatives and green jobs programs.