On Thursday, the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee questioned Ben Carson, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary nominee, on his ability to lead the department.
Due to Carson’s lack of experience in the housing industry, some expected senators to question him heavily about his ability to lead HUD. In fact, when President-elect Donald Trump first nominated him, it caused a divide among politicians and industry experts.
However, Carson’s lack of experience was not the main topic of the day. In fact, the hearing was much less controversial than could be expected, given the initial reaction to his appointment, with Carson receiving a warm welcome from many of the commitee members.
Sen. Mike Rounds to Ben Carson, citing concerns about Carson not being a housing expert: "Running HUD is not like brain surgery." *rimshot— Ben Lane (@BenLaneHW) January 12, 2017
In fact, the hearing was much less controversial than could be expected, given the initial reaction to his appointment. Instead, senators focused on other topics such as Carson’s previous comments about housing, veteran homelessness and the LGBT community.
A big question Carson keeps getting asked “Will you protect the LGBT community from discrimination and purse all complaints?" "Yes" - BC— Brena Swanson (@BrenaSwanson) January 12, 2017
Carson repeatedly answered senators that he would “enforce the law of the land” where LGBT rights and other fair housing laws are concerned.
Carson even went so far as to say that the Fair Housing Act is "one of the best pieces of legislation we've ever had in this country."
Carson also said that he plans to develop a "world-class plan" for housing if he's confirmed.
Another topic that many senators brought up was veteran homelessness. Carson expressed his agreement that more needs to be done for veterans.
“I think veterans can be a healing bond for all of us because we can all agree on that,” Carson said.
He went on to talk about the current treatment of veterans, and how improvement is necessary.
“It seems almost immoral that we can have a group of people that have sacrificed so much and then basically just kick them in the pants,” he said.
Wednesday, HousingWire published this article about 35 questions Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D – Mass. wanted Carson to answer at his hearing. However, when her time came to question him, she spent the entire time talking about Trump’s conflict of interests. She asked Carson if he could assure here that not $1 of HUD’s budget would benefit the president-elect’s business.
Carson assured her, “the things that I do are driven by a sense of morals and value” and that he would not give out anything for the purpose of benefitting the president-elect or his family.
Some senators also brought up some of Carson’s previous comments where he criticized government regulations, and even called some programs a “failed socialist experiment.”
Carson responded that these comments were taken out of context, and stated that what he was truly against was decisions being passed down from Washington.
“We have people sitting around desks in Washington D.C. telling people what should be done,” Carson said. “I do have a problem with people on high dictating it when they have no idea what’s going on in the area.”
Overall, however, there was very little conflict in the hearing, and even on of the senators, Sen. John Kennedy, R – Louisiana, stated that he believes Carson will be the next HUD secretary.
Perhaps this quote from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D – N. Dak. sums it up best:
For now, Carson's time as HUD secretary has yet to begin, and already analysts are standing behind him. Compass Point Research & Trading sent out a note summarizing the hearing, and ending by giving its support to the future HUD secretary.
"Doctor Carson’s performance was strong and we believe his path to confirmation is clear," the note stated.