The Financial Choice Act, which just passed through the House on a party-line vote, doesn’t just seek to prevent the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from regulating banks, credit card companies, debt collectors, and payday lenders. A last-minute amendment to the bill could strip the Bureau of its offices.
The amendment — the final of six adopted tweaks during today’s vote — would direct the General Services Administration to reevaluate the CFPB’s real estate needs.
The Bureau is currently housed in an office building in D.C., directly across the street from the White House grounds and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. I’ve visited the building and while not as drab and hulking as some federal office buildings, it’s certainly not an architectural marvel.
Yet, to Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, the fact that the CFPB renovated its sizable office building when it moved into the space is a moral issue that must be dealt with post-haste.
“It is immoral to spend money we to spend money we don’t have today and force our children to pay in the future,” noted Buck in his speech on the floor, citing a renovation cost to the large office building at $200 million. “My amendment will decide if that building is a good use of taxpayer dollars. If not, it authorizes the General Services Administration to sell the building to the highest bidder, generating hundreds of millions of dollars by offloading a property that is unnecessary for the federal government to own.”
Buck cited his first grandchild, Bear, as the inspiration for this amendment.
“When he grows older, I want to tell him I did everything in my power to fight the out-of-control spending that plagues our generation,” explained Buck. “This amendment is part of that fight, for Bear and all of our grandchildren.”
Speaking against the amendment, Rep. Keith Ellison (MN) wondered how Buck could be so concerned about the financial well-being of America’s grandchildren when the bill he supports would effectively eliminate an agency whose entire purpose is to protect consumers’ finances.
“I don’t understand why my Republican friends don’t get [that] 29 million people got $11.5 billion of their money back” because of the CFPB. “I would think we could get together on that. I would think we could agree that that is an important thing to work on — And now you we’re trying to mess with their building? For the sake of the children, no less.”
Ellison pointed to a 2015 audit from the Federal Reserve Board’s Office of the Inspector General, which concluded that “construction costs appear reasonable based on comparisons to an independent cost estimate and the costs of two comparable building renovations identified by the U.S. General Services Administration. We also determined that potential renovation costs are below the amount previously budgeted and obligated for the renovation.”
“May we put this issue to bed, that there’s some nefarious plot going on with the building?” asked Ellison. “Trying to bring a big deal up about their building, which is an issue that’s been resolved, is not going to benefit the children of tomorrow. I think it will benefit the children for those 29 million families to get $12 billion back.”
The amendment passed on a largely party-line vote — Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina was the only GOP lawmaker to break ranks to vote against the amendment; Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas the sole Democrat to support it — but the actual CHOICE Act appears to be doomed to stalling out in the Senate unless it goes through significant changes.