Ben Carson has been confirmed by the Senate to act as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in a 58-41 vote. The retired pediatric neurosurgeon entered politics as a hopeful for the Republican presidential nomination before being nominated for the position by President Donald Trump.
As the New York Times reports, Democrats in the Senate were not as critical of Carson as they were of Trump’s other cabinet nominees. Among the Democratic senators who voted for Carson were Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Mark Warner of Virginia, according to Politico. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts had voted for Carson in the Banking Committee but voted no in the final confirmation due to pressure from the left. Brown defended his vote for Carson, saying, “He made the commitment under oath to our committee that he would fight discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation.”
As leader of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Carson will oversee a budget of $47 billion, a department of around 8,000 employees and programs that provide low-income housing and government assistance. This is the first government position for Carson, who was previously the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.
Growing up in Detroit, a young Ben Carson was raised by a single mother who relied at times on food stamps to get by. Carson, however, has joined other Republicans in being critical of too much government assistance. Carson is the only African-American member of Trump’s cabinet.
During Carson’s Senate hearings, Warren and Brown questioned him heavily about the potentiality of Department of Housing and Urban Development dollars and decisions being used to benefit Trump’s various real estate business. “Can you just assure us that not one dollar will go to benefit either the president-elect or his family?” Warren asked.
In response, Carson said his actions would be “driven by a sense of morals and values.” As Politico reports, among Trump’s business interests is Brooklyn’s Starrett City, a public housing project.
Before Carson was nominated for the position, Armstrong Williams, a Ben Carson aide, told The Hill that the retired neurosurgeon and presidential hopeful felt he lacked the experience to be a member of Trump’s cabinet.
“Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience, he’s never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency.”
Upon announcing his choice to nominate Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Trump said, “We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities.” NPR reports that Carson’s name was previously floated around to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.
Trump and Carson engaged in multiple debates while both sought the Republican nomination. However, Carson endorsed Trump shortly after dropping out of the race. Both have frequently spoken about the need to address the country’s inner cities, with Carson saying his experience growing up in Detroit will influence his role as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
“I grew up in the inner city and have spent a lot of time there, and have dealt with a lot of patients from that area and recognize that we cannot have a strong nation if we have weak inner cities.”
Some experts on urban policy have questioned Carson’s ability to lead such a complex department, including Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League. Morial told the Washington Post, “Those concerns stem from his own statements. He said, basically, that he’s not qualified for HUD or for government service. So most people I hear ask, ‘How did they convince him to take the job?'”
Now confirmed as secretary, Ben Carson will go on what the Washington Post calls a “listening tour” across the country.
[Featured Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]