SEABROOK – Prince George’s County’s journey to bring in the FBI headquarters just hit another roadblock, as a House of Representatives committee voted to cut funding for the project.
On June 29, the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government convened for a markup of their portion of the fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill. Subcommittee Chairman Tom Graves (R-Ga.-14) announced the document cuts spending by about 6 percent, including reducing the money going to the General Services Administration (GSA) for the construction of new buildings.
“We did make sure to include sufficient funds for the maintenance and repairs of existing buildings. Knowing that we have limited resources, we’re focusing on taking care of what we have today,” he said. “Anticipating, hopefully, additional resources in the future, we can look back towards construction. But it is certainly lean times today.”
The fund includes $8 billion, but none of that money is earmarked for the construction of a new, consolidated FBI headquarters. The initial plan included $200 million for the project, which was rescinded. Prince George’s County has two of the three sites shortlisted for the home of the complex, which would generate 11,000 jobs. GSA has put on hold the selection of the site and winning bidder until full funding is secured.
Graves said the decision was not a reflection of how Congress “views the work” of the GSA, but was merely “a math issue.” He stated the committee worked to incorporate conservative principals such as reducing spending as well as President Donald Trump’s priorities when formulating its spending bill.
Trump has not spoken publicly about the FBI project at all.
Maryland’s representatives, however, have been strongly and vocally supportive of the consolidation and of bringing the headquarters to Prince George’s County. Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-5) said earlier this year the committee chairmen had expressed to him their support for the project. The fiscal year 2017 omnibus appropriations bill, passed in April, included $523 million for the project, along with a commitment to “provide funding in Fiscal Year 2018 for the project to proceed expeditiously.”
Now, he is accusing Republican leaders of reneging on that promise.
“It is reprehensible that House Republicans are playing politics with our national security by rescinding $200 million in funding for the new, fully consolidated FBI headquarters,” Hoyer said in a joint statement with Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.-4). “House Republicans are going back on their word by not including new funding for the project in the appropriations bill and taking away existing funding allocated for the new FBI headquarters. House Republicans must stop delaying this project. A new, fully consolidated FBI headquarters is important for the safety and security of our nation, as well as the economic development of Prince George’s County and the state of Maryland.”
Subcommittee member Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.-17) pointed out during subcommittee discussion – which lasted under an hour and focused mainly on provisions dealing with the election assistance commission and not the FBI funds – that with the global climate of terrorism, cyber attacks and other threats, providing the national security agencies with what they need to complete their mission is especially important.
“Healthy funding for the FBI matters now more than ever, so I am truly astonished by this cut,” she said.
County Executive Rushern Baker, III, agrees that the FBI headquarters project is “critical for the protection of U.S. citizens from international threats.”
“I join Maryland Congressmen Steny Hoyer and Anthony Brown in their frustration and concern over the preliminary action of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations subcommittee. This is a huge step backward,” he said in a statement. “If ever a project should have bipartisan support and be recognized as vital for national security, this should be it.”
The sole Republican member of Maryland’s Congressional delegation, Rep. Andy Harris (who represents the First District and is a member of the Appropriations committee), said he does support the project, but the national debt and deficit are also important considerations. He also questioned the commitment of state-level leaders to bringing the headquarters to Maryland.
“I fully support the new FBI headquarters project, but realize that with a $20 trillion debt and a half trillion dollar deficit we may have to delay completion of some projects like this,” he said. “Furthermore, I’m afraid that the Maryland Attorney General suing the president will certainly not help get this project to Maryland.”
Baker, in his statement, claimed that delays to the project actually raise the price tag by $100 million per year.
“The time is now to move ahead with funding to build a FBI headquarters to better protect the American people,” he said.
Brown and Hoyer are urging their colleagues in the House to restore the project’s funding. The full Appropriations committee, and then the full House, must vote on the bill, so there is still time for changes. After that, the U.S. Senate will have an opportunity to vote on the bill, and Maryland’s Senators say they are committed to the FBI relocation as well.
They also blame Trump for the project’s latest setback.
“Apparently, the Trump Administration has persuaded House Republicans to renege on their commitment to support the FBI,” Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both Democrats, said in a statement. “Despite the critical need to ensure the FBI is capable of keeping our nation safe, the Administration would rather spend money on an ineffective and wasteful border wall.
“We will fight this misguided effort to throw a wrench in this project at a critical time for our nation’s security,” they added.