Mr. President, I opposed the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, known as CFPB, during the debate over Dodd-Frank in 2010. The makeup of the bureau is quite unique in that a sole director, rather than a bipartisan commission, is the singular decision maker of the agency. Furthermore, the bureau is not subjected to the congressional appropriations process, having guaranteed money from the Federal Reserve to fund the agency’s existence. The funding source may be more assured than Social Security. And if the agency is running amuck, Congress has no ability to use the appropriations process to bring oversight to the CFPB.
You may be familiar with something called the transparent General Schedule for federal employees, often referred to as the “GS scale”. It is the primary way the government ensures that federal employee salaries are appropriate and reasonable. This pay scale however, doesn’t apply to the least accountable agency in the federal government; you guessed it, the CFPB. At the CFPB, the director has the sole discretion to determine employees’ salaries.
Government employees at the CFPB receive some of the highest paychecks of all federal workers. According to data my office obtained from the Office of Personnel Management and the CFPB itself, there were over 170 employees at the CFPB that were paid salaries in 2017 that ranged from over 180,000 dollars to 259,000 dollars.
To put this all in perspective, in 2017, the highest paid appointees in the White House were paid salaries of 179,000 dollars. Over 170 employees at the CFPB receive more pay than the highest paid White House staffers. 102 employees at the CFPB make more in annual salary than any of our state governors. A Supreme Court justice is paid an annual salary of 251,000 dollars. Six staff members at the CFPB were paid more than that. In 2017, approximately 47 employees had a higher salary than the Vice President.
It’s true that top executives at the big banks can make a hefty penny in their industry, but the whole of the American banking industry doesn’t see this type of wealth: these are our community bankers and our credit unions, and institutions that support Main Street America. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average bank employee salary is 63,000 dollars. And guess who makes more than these bankers? Their regulators, like the CFPB.
Last year Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin and I introduced the CFPB Pay Fairness Act to rein in the CFPB’s rates of pay, and I am offering this bill as an amendment to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act. The amendment requires the director of the CFPB to set the basic rate of pay in accordance with the GS scale, just like everyone else who works for the federal government.
The GS scale provides information to the public on the credentials of federal employees, with each level requiring qualification standards like education and years of experience. As it stands, the CFPB does not provide any qualification standards for their employees’ pay, nor is it transparent to the American people or even the CFPB’s own employees. This proved to be an issue when in 2016 the Government Accountability Office investigated allegations of discrimination at the CFPB. Thirty-three percent of the CFPB employee respondents to the GAO indicated they believed their pay was not commensurate with their skills, work experience, and education.
Because of the way the CFPB was created in Dodd-Frank, Congress failed to impose the usual constitutional checks to rein in this behavior. Congress needs to bring accountability to the CFPB, and we should start with the bureau’s lavish spending on employee salaries. This common-sense amendment would ensure the bureau is keeping employees’ salaries in line with the regular government pay scale, promoting transparency and equity in pay across the federal government.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.