House Republicans pressure Cordray for details on consumer bureau budget

Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee are keeping the pressure on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), demanding a series of detailed budgetary documents from the new agency.

In a letter sent to CFPB Director Richard Cordray on Wednesday, committee Republicans chided the bureau as being "wholly unresponsive" to prior requests for more budgetary information.

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The new bureau, created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, has sat squarely in the sights of the GOP since its creation. Republican lawmakers argue the agency lacks accountability, in no small part because its budget falls outside the grasp of congressional appropriators.

Currently, the CFPB receives its funding from the Federal Reserve, and is set to get $547 million this year. Democrats have defended the independent arrangement, pointing out that banking regulators are similarly insulated from political pressure. But GOP lawmakers argue that since any excess funds earned by the Fed are turned over to the Treasury Department to pay for deficit reduction, they have a valid interest in overseeing how the CFPB is spending cash.

"Every dollar the Fed sends to CFPB is one less dollar than can be used toward deficit reduction," they wrote. "It is therefore imperative we monitor CFPB's budget to ensure the bureau is, in fact, being held accountable."

In particular, the Republicans are asking the CFPB to provide detailed spending plans for fiscal 2013, calling the budget justification already submitted to Congress by the agency "unnecessarily vague."

They also pressed the bureau on how much it plans to spend upgrading its office space. The CFPB is set to take over an office building across the street from the White House, previously occupied by the Federal Housing Finance Agency. It has set aside $55 million for "land and structures," and Republicans want details on what that money is for. The GOP lawmakers also asked for details on how the CFPB plans to assess its employment needs.

Jennifer Howard, spokeswoman for the CFPB, said, "We will be as responsive as possible to this, and every request we receive from Congress."

The letter, signed by Reps. Randy Neugebauer (Texas), Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.) and Jim Renacci (Ohio), marks the latest volley in a long-running fight between Republicans and the CFPB over its budget. Republicans have pushed legislation that would bring the agency's budget under the appropriations process, as Democrats decry the move as simply an effort to slash its budget.

As part of a series of savings recommendations recently passed by the committee's GOP majority, one measure would have appropriators set the CFPB's budget, and would also cut it more than in half, to $200 million.

This post updated at 2:44 pm.