GOP blasts $215M cost for consumer bureau office with waterfall

Republican lawmakers blasted renovation plans for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s headquarters after an inspector general report said costs could top $215 million.

Federal Reserve inspector general Mark Bialek wrote that a "sound business case" cannot be made for renovating the building the agency rents at 1700 G St. NW, near the White House.

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When first announced four years ago, the renovation project had a $55 million pricetag. By 2012, the CFPB revised the projected cost to $95 million and again last year raised the estimate to $150.8 million.

The CFPB's renovations, which include a four-story glass staircase, two-story waterfall and a sunken garden, have angered House Republicans who say the agency is being wasteful with taxpayers' money.

“When they passed the Dodd-Frank Act, Democrats in Congress and the White House made the CFPB unaccountable to taxpayers and to Congress," House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said in a statement.

"We’re seeing the results of this dangerous unaccountability today in a Washington bureaucracy that is running amok, spending as much as it wants on whatever it wants,” he continued. “It’s outrageous.”

In January, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), chairman of the Financial Services subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, requested the inspector general report, which his panel released Wednesday.

McHenry slammed the CFPB, calling the findings "deeply troubling.”

"The continuously growing price tag is a tremendous waste of funds and, amazingly, there is still no assurance the $215 million price tag won't grow higher," he said in a statement.

McHenry pointed out that the CFPB is spending more than $590 per square foot to renovate the building — far more than the comparative costs for building the Trump World Tower in New York ($334) and Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas ($330).

The CFPB did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the inspector general's report.

Before Congress in January, CFPB Director Richard Cordray, though, defended the renovations.

Cordray said the agency had selected a “tough building” but denied charges that the renovations were opulent and wasteful.

“The notion that we would try to build some kind of palace that we don’t own or control makes no sense to me,” he told lawmakers.

The renovation costs are only the latest controversy to hit the CFPB, which has been in the crosshairs of House Republicans since it was created. GOP lawmakers have long questioned the structure of the independent agency, because it does not rely on Congress for funding.

Recently, CFPB employees also accused the management of workplace discrimination. One black employee even compared it to working in a "plantation."

Republicans have seized on those controversies, arguing that the agency needs more congressional oversight.

McHenry on Wednesday said the agency was "unaccountable" to Congress.

"The findings of the inspector general's investigation are deeply troubling and lead to even more questions about the unaccountable design of the CFPB," McHenry said.

"It has become abundantly clear that it's not 1700 G Street that needs an overhaul, but rather the entire structure of the CFPB," he added.