With the controversies over Solyndra and Fast and Furious showing no signs of going away anytime soon, President Obama faces an uphill battle of staying focused on winning re-election next November.
The White House announced Friday that it has ordered a review of the Energy Department’s loan guarantee program as multiple investigations swirl over Solyndra, the California-based solar company that went bankrupt after receiving a $528 million federal loan.
And at least eight Republican lawmakers are calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to resign over the botched federal gun-trafficking program known as Fast and Furious.
The developments come as Obama tries to convince voters that his top priority is turning the economy around and that he deserves a second term despite his low approval ratings.
Obama’s $447 jobs bill failed to advance in the Senate and now he is trying to get Congress to pass the package piece by piece. But the first piece, a $35 billion bill to help local governments keep teachers on the job and pay the salaries of police and firefighters, has stalled in the Senate.
Obama has begun bypassing Congress and taking steps on his own through executive actions that he says will encourage economic growth. On Friday, he directed government agencies to shorten the time it takes for federal research to turn into commercial products in the marketplace. The goal is to help startup companies and small businesses create jobs and expand their operations more quickly.
He also called for creating a centralized online site for companies to easily find information about federal services. He previously announced help for people who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth and for the repayment of student loans. The White House also challenged community health centers to hire veterans.
“We can no longer wait for Congress to do its job,” Obama said. “So where Congress won’t act, I will.”
But his actions are at risk of being overshadowed by the two controversies that could cause voters to lose faith in his administration.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee announced Friday that the panel would vote Thursday to subpoena White House records related to the Solyndra loan. Congressional Republicans have been investigating the bankruptcy of Solyndra amid revelations that federal officials were warned that it had problems but nonetheless continued to support it.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu will testify before the committee on Nov. 17 regarding the Solyndra loan.
And Holder has agreed to Rep. Darrell Issa’s request to appear before the House Judiciary Committee in December to answer more questions about his level of involvement in Fast and Furious and its underlying plan to let thousands of guns sold in the U.S. get into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.
The Obama administration is fighting hard to quell the controversies.
White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley said Friday that the new independent review will evaluate the condition of other loan guarantees made by the Energy Department and make recommendations to the administration about how to improve the process.
“The president is committed to investing in clean energy because he understands that the jobs developing and manufacturing these technologies will either be created here or in other countries,” he said. “And while we continue to take steps to make sure the United States remains competitive in the 21st century energy economy, we must also ensure that we are strong stewards of taxpayer dollars.”
Holder, meanwhile, has insisted that he knew nothing about Fast and Furious -prior to the public outcry over the operation that was ignited by the murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in December. Guns linked to Fast and Furious were found at Terry’s crime scene.
Holder testified in May in front of the House Judiciary Committee that he “probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.”
But Republican lawmakers are skeptical of his testimony after obtaining five memos addressed to Holder in July and August 2010, citing the operation by name.
Now eight members of Congress -- Reps. Joe Walsh of Illinois, Raul Labrador of Idaho, Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, John Mica of Florida, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Blake Farenthold of Texas, Gus Bilrakis of Florida, Francisco Canseco of Texas -- have called for Holder to step down.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R- S. C., a member of Judiciary Committee, told Fox News that it’s not his role to demand Holder’s resignation.
“President Obama hired him. President Obama can decide whether or not he’s doing the job,” he said. “ I suspect when it becomes more of a political liability, they’ll have that conversation. My interest is not in career advice, I want to get answers for the American people on who knew what when.”