FIRST ON FOX: House Republicans are planning to “empty chair” a Biden official at a hearing Tuesday morning after he declined to appear, and after the administration pulled a grant for a firm with Chinese ties.
During the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing — titled “Growing the Domestic Energy Sector Supply Chain and Manufacturing Base: Are Federal Efforts Working?” — a seat will be left empty for David Howell, the top official in the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Manufacturing and Energy Supply Chains. Howell rejected an invitation to testify during the hearing alongside four experts.
“I’m concerned that the Department may be entertaining other problematic awards and only decided not to proceed with this after our congressional scrutiny,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., will say in her opening remarks shared exclusively with Fox News Digital.
“The Department’s refusal to appear today does nothing to alleviate our fears, and this refusal to answer questions from the American people’s elected representatives is completely unacceptable,” the remarks continue.
BIDEN ADMIN DEFENDS HANDING LUCRATIVE GRANT TO ENERGY FIRM WITH DEEP CHINA TIES
On Monday evening, DOE officials informed congressional staff that it would no longer award a $200 million grant to Microvast, a Texas-based maker of technology for electric vehicle batteries with deep ties to China. The DOE announced in October that Microvast would receive a portion of the nearly $3 billion appropriated through the 2021 infrastructure bill for a program designed to boost U.S. battery manufacturing.
Over the last several months, McMorris Rodgers and other Republican leaders have called on the DOE to rescind the grant after its ties to China were revealed. A large majority of the company’s revenue is generated in China and its financial disclosures indicate that the Chinese government “exerts substantial influence” over its business activities and “may intervene at any time and with no notice.”
BIDEN’S AMBITIOUS EV PLANS COULD MAKE US MORE DEPENDENT ON CHINESE SUPPLY CHAINS, EXPERTS WARN
Earlier this month, McMorris Rodgers invited Howell, who is the acting director and principal deputy director of the DOE Office of Manufacturing and Energy Supply Chains, to inform the panel on the Biden administration’s work decoupling U.S. energy supply chains from China and other adversaries. Howell’s office oversees implementation of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act loan programs.
“On May 9th, this subcommittee formally invited Acting Director David Howell to appear before us at this hearing,” McMorris Rodgers’ remarks add. “The Department refused to have Acting Director Howell or any other witness appear on this date. In its official response, the Department told this committee that it had already furnished two witnesses to the Committee recently.”
“I will include in the record the Committee’s May 9th invitation to Acting Director Howell and DOE’s response, dated May 19, refusing our invitation. The Department of Energy, not only refused to provide transparency to this committee, but they’re refusing to be transparent to the American people who deserve every assurance that their tax dollars are not being funneled to China.”
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In a statement Monday evening, a DOE spokesperson confirmed that the agency would cancel grant negotiations with Microvast, but declined to provide a reason. During a grant awarding process, the DOE is required to assess a number of factors including the fitness of an applicant to carry out the scope of its responsibilities under the award and its financial management.
“As responsible stewards of American taxpayer dollars, the Department of Energy maintains a rigorous review process prior to the release of any awarded funds, and it is not uncommon for entities selected to participate in award negotiations under a DOE competitive funding opportunity to not ultimately receive an award,” a DOE spokesperson told Fox News Digital.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing is set for 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday,