Retired neurosurgeon and failed presidential candidate Ben Carson was confirmed to lead the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Thursday, despite having no experience in housing policy or government in general, after the Senate voted in his favor 58-41.
Other lawmakers who fell in line with Republicans to approve him were Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin (W.V.), Jon Tester (Mont.), and Mark Warner (Va.), along with Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine).
Carson will now lead the agency with a budget of roughly $47 billion that oversees fair housing practices and assists low-income renters and homeowners.A close associate infamously said that Carson initially rejected President Donald Trump's offer to lead HUD because he did not have experience in government or running a federal agency.
He also told the Washington Post in November that he would be a "fish out of water" in a Trump cabinet and was unlikely to serve in it. Nonetheless, he ultimately took the nomination.
Many of his views on housing policy have raised alarms for experts. He notably referred to fair housing as a "failed socialist experiment."
The Washington Post reports:
Urban policy experts and progressive activists have expressed intense concern that Carson, in keeping with his strong conservative positions, will seek to cut money for government assistance programs and wear down the social safety net. The Trump administration has recently signaled that many government agencies can expect budget reductions in favor of increasing defense spending. Carson would be the face of any such cuts at HUD, which is not viewed favorably by conservatives and could be a prime target for reductions.
Notably, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) opposed Carson this time around, after facing criticism for supporting him after his confirmation hearing—during which he could not promise her that he would block President Donald Trump's family from benefiting from HUD contracts.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Mastro (D-Nev.), who voted against Carson, said she could not "place the lives of thousands of Nevadans who depend on HUD in the hands of someone who is ill-equipped to lead it."
Brown's support for Carson raised eyebrows, as the Ohio senator is typically seen as a progressive stalwart. He cast a yes vote after Carson agreed to work with Brown, the ranking Democrat on the Committee on Banking, Housings, and Urban Affairs, to identify properties tied to both HUD and the Trump family.