President Obama on Thursday slammed Republicans who are critical of a program that awarded the now-bankrupt solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra a $535 million taxpayer-backed loan guarantee, noting that Republican lawmakers have long supported subsidies for clean-energy initiatives.
Since Solyndra filed for bankruptcy protection five weeks ago, the Obama administration had been on the defensive as Republicans seized on the collapse of the solar company as an example of misuse of stimulus money.
Internal White House e-mails published by the House Energy investigative subcommittee looking into Solyndra's collapse show there was deep concern among some administration officials about Solyndra's long-term viability.
GOP lawmakers have also suggested that the Solyndra deal went through -- despite administration concern about the company's long-term viability -- because one of the solar firm's top investors was a foundation controlled by a major Obama fundraiser.
During a White House news conference, Obama said Republicans were attacking a program that started in the Bush administration and that support for clean-energy programs had long had bipartisan backing.
Obama alluded to how Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., and other Republicans have lobbied for clean-energy initiatives in Florida. Stearns, who is now leading a House subcommittee investigation of Solyndra, signed at least three letters to Energy Secretary Steven Chu seeking grants or loan guarantees for Florida projects.
Stearns is also one of at least 62 Republican lawmakers who have lobbied Chu for clean-energy money, according to ThinkProgress, a blog run by the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress.
"I heard there was a Republican member of Congress who's engaging in oversight on this," said Obama, referring to Stearns. "And despite the fact that all of them in the past have been supportive of this loan-guarantee program, he concluded we can't compete against China when it comes to solar energy. Well, you know what? I don't buy that. I'm not going to surrender to other countries' technological leads that could end up determining whether or not we're building a strong middle class in this country."
Meanwhile, Chu announced Thursday that the head of the Energy Department's loan-guarantee program, Jonathan Silver, was resigning. Stearns called for Silver's firing last month, a day after Stearns' subcommittee had questioned him about the Solyndra loan.
Obama said the program was meant to help high-risk companies.
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