Silver had been criticized by Republicans during a House subcommittee hearing three weeks ago, and White House e-mails released this week showed that officials were anxious about the loan program and whether the agency was properly monitoring it. Silver’s boss, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, has accepted responsibility for the Solyndra decisions.
Energy officials said Thursday that Silver decided to leave the job in July, recognizing that funding for the program was expiring. His office handed out an additional $4.7 billion in loan guarantees on Sept. 30, the last day of the program.
In a statement, Chu praised Silver’s performance. “Because of my absolute confidence in Jonathan and the outstanding work he has done, I would welcome his continued service at the Department, but I completely understand the decision he has made,” Chu said.
Leading Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee said that Silver’s resignation did not address their concerns that other problems may lurk among 38 other projects the program has funded. They described “Mr. Silver’s mad rush” to approve additional federal loans just hours before the Sept. 30 deadline to close such deals.
Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the subcommittee investigating Solyndra, and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the committee chairman, said in a joint statement that they were alarmed by the president’s comment Thursday that risk is inherent in backing start-up companies. “For every success there may be one that does not work out as well,” Obama said in his midday news conference.
“Does the Obama Administration now expect that half of these companies will fail?” the Republican lawmakers asked. “American taxpayers are already on the hook for the half billion dollar Solyndra bust — what other shoes does this Administration expect to drop?”
Solyndra, the first company to win an energy loan guarantee from the Obama administration, closed up shop Aug. 31 and left 1,100 employees out of work. Silver and other administration officials received numerous warnings about the company’s worsening finances but continued to help the firm in the hopes that it could be rescued.
The White House e-mails show Obama’s most trusted and senior White House aides discussing Solyndra’s shaky finances and fears that the loan could be a political embarassment. One e-mail suggested that the energy department appeared “ill-equipped” to make good bets on companies.