WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday defended giving government funds to a nuclear enrichment company that recently announced it was filing for bankruptcy, claiming "bipartisan support" for the company's research.
The company, Ohio-based USEC Inc., has received billions in government subsidies over the last two decades. Conservative outlet Breitbart News branded it the "GOP Solyndra," in reference to the now-defunct California solar company that filed for bankruptcy two years after receiving a $535 million federal loan guarantee.
"We are not going to turn our heads, and we’re not going to turn a blind eye to what appears to be some incredibly horrible decisions,” Boehner said during a November 2011 interview. “The Congress will be relentless in our pursuit of the truth."
But while Boehner said in 2011 he believed "for the federal government to be out there picking one company over another, one type of energy source over another.. is wrong," he has continued to seek federal funds for his home state's USEC.
In 2011, the House speaker backed USEC, which enriches uranium for commercial nuclear reactors, in its pursuit of a $2 billion Department of Energy loan guarantee. At the time, he said Solyndra's collapse shouldn't prevent USEC from securing funds.
"In the midst of the Solyndra controversy, that has raised serious questions about the Obama Administration’s oversight of taxpayer dollars, hundreds of Southern Ohio workers stand to lose their jobs if the Obama Administration reneges on the president’s promise to support an energy project in the small town of Piketon, Ohio," Boehner wrote in a column posted on his website. "I urge the administration to not betray the citizens of Southern Ohio."
Campaign finance records suggest that USEC has noticed Boehner's support. According to Open Secrets, the company's political action committee contributed $15,000 to groups supporting Boehner's 2010, 2012 and 2014 reelection campaigns.
The omnibus spending package, which cleared Congress this week, authorizes $62 million for USEC. CNN noted Thursday that the company may also receive an additional $52 million in government funds if it meets Energy Department criteria.
USEC said Dec. 16 that it expects to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the first quarter of 2014.
Despite the company's troubles, Boehner stood by USEC when asked Thursday why the spending bill includes funds for a company headed toward bankruptcy.
"Well, there is all different types of bankruptcy proceedings, but USEC, the issue in Ohio, is a uranium enrichment with new technology," Boehner said. "There has been a bipartisan effort to proceed with this research that they’re doing. When it comes to the omnibus appropriations bill, this is not the way we ought to do business. I’m a big believer that we ought to have regular order. And what this bill does is begins the process of getting us back to regular order."