WASHINGTON -- A group of Republicans are complaining that Energy Secretary Steven Chu has mischaracterized GOP lawmakers' attempts to speed up federal funds for alternative energy projects in their districts, saying they don't want the Energy Department to "accelerate" anything.
Yet GOP lawmakers are on record asking for precisely such expedited efforts.
In a letter released Monday, 19 Republican lawmakers assert that although many of them have written to administration officials seeking to win favor for energy projects in their districts, it doesn't necessarily mean they support the programs under which the projects are applying or that they want quick action.
"It is common practice on Capitol Hill for members of Congress to submit letters of support to agencies to ensure that companies in a member's district receive fair consideration for eligible federal funds regardless of the member's level of support for that program," says the letter, written by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). "In many cases members who submit letters of support for their constituents may have actually voted against the authorizing legislation."
"These letters should in no way give you or your staff the belief that members are specifically asking you to 'accelerate' taxpayer funds and push them out the door without proper oversight and due diligence," Blackburn and the 18 others continued.
Chu has complained that when he appears before congressional committees addressing issues such as the failure of some Energy Department loan recipients, lawmakers complain that he shoveled aid to ultimately bad projects too quickly, yet at most other times they demand speedier action. The letter appears to be aimed at countering that charge, as well as the accusation of hypocrisy after Republicans have been caught repeatedly criticizing alternative energy programs that they had earlier written letters praising.
The Huffington Post readily identified another letter signed by several Republicans -- including Michigan Reps. Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee -- asking expressly for what Blackburn said they don't want. It is among hundreds of letters HuffPost has obtained through freedom-of-information requests.
"We write to express our support for the prompt completion of consideration of loan applications that several Michigan based automakers and component suppliers have filed under the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program," wrote Camp, Upton and other Michigan lawmakers in December 2010.
Noting that expectations for better fuel efficiency were only growing, the lawmakers wrote then that "both manufacturers and suppliers must accelerate their plans to improve fuel economy immediately, and the manufacturers' need for the ATVM loans is even more urgent."
"We urge you to proceed expeditiously," they concluded.
Moreover, while the Blackburn letter says lawmakers may not actually support the programs to which they are appealing, other letters by two signers of Blackburn's missive -- Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.) -- seem to suggest an enthusiastic embrace of alternative energy efforts, including a push to create fuel from algae, which Republicans recently have been mocking.
Blackburn's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.
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