Tags: Consumer | finance | refurbish | overspend

GOP Objects to $95 Million Update to Cordray HQ

Saturday, 30 Nov 2013 04:30 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

The Obama administration wants to spend $95 million renovating the headquarters of Richard Cordray's controversial Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, less than three years after the newly formed agency opened.

That amounts to $75,000 for every worker at the bureau, even though many of them don't even work inside the Washington D.C. building.

Republicans are up in arms about the planned refurbishment of the building — which formerly housed the now-defunct Office of Thrift Supervision Renovations.

"This is simply an egregious example of waste and Washington bureaucrats living a life much different than an average American," Rep Patrick McHenry, who chairs House Financial Services Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations told the Los Angeles Times.

"We have major budget issues in this country. I think it's highly inappropriate to spend $75,000 per employee to renovate a building," added the North Carolina Republican.

The repairs were to include a state-of the-art lobby with interactive kiosks and 21st-century learning centers, according to Elizabeth Warren at the time when the Massachusetts senator was still a White House aide organizing the new agency.

However, none of the repairs have happened, with the renovation costs becoming a rallying point for Republicans who still want to restrict the bureau.

Republicans have complained that the new bureau is too powerful and does not have proper oversight, because it is funded through the Federal Reserve and does not have to depend on Congressional appropriations.

Bureau Director Cordray, whose own confirmation was blocked for months until President Barack Obama installed him through a recess appointment  in 2012, insists the headquarters' renovations are necessary, as the electrical and ventilation systems are outmoded. He said the government isn't "building some palace."

The GOP continues to fight over the bureau itself, with McHenry and other Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee pushing through bills to change its structure and powers, including insisting its financing should need congressional approval.

They are also seeking a way to replace Cordray's position with a bipartisan commission.

Democrats, though, say other banking regulators are not funded by Congress, which they say can be influenced by industry lobbyists.

The bureau has some spending limits, as it is capped at 12 percent of the Fed's operating expenses. This year, the bureau had a cap of about $600 million and spent $541 million, reports The Times.

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