WASHINGTON – Secretary of Housing and Urban Development nominee Ben Carson countered accusations that he opposes government programs aimed at helping to alleviate poverty during his confirmation hearing Thursday.
“Government can play a very important role even though some have distorted what I’ve said about government,” Carson said during opening remarks before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.
“I believe Government is important. And it is there I believe to promote life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What has happened too often is that people who seemingly mean well have promoted things that do not encourage the development of any talent of people and hence we have generation after generation of people living in dependent situations.”
Carson was introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who spoke in favor of the nomination.
Ranking Democrat Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) during his opening remarks blasted Carson for having previously criticized government anti-poverty programs.
Carson, 65, was born in Detroit, Michigan and was raised by his mother after she and her husband had divorced. Following that event Carson’s mother worked several jobs to make ends meat and the family lived in poverty.
Carson’s mother emphasized the importance of quality education despite the family’s lack of means and required her two sons to regularly read and then write book reports.
As a child Carson displayed a penchant for behavior problems and on one occasion attempted to bludgeon a friend with a knife.
Following that incident Carson turned to Christianity, which he in part credited for turning his life around and in 1984 he became director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at John Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Carson is considered a world-class neurosurgeon due to his renowned procedures separating twins who were born conjoined at the head.
For most of his life Carson was a Democrat but has said that his views began to change when Ronald Reagan became president.
In recent years Carson has expressed socially conservative views including opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.
Carson ran for president as a Republican in 2016 but exited the race in March after failing to carry a single state on Super Tuesday.
Carson endorsed Donald Trump after exiting the race and was a loyal surrogate during the campaign.
Trump chose Carson to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development in early December.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) referenced comments Carson previously made in interviews suggesting government housing assistance programs foster dependency and asked whether harboring those views run counter to HUD’s mission.
Menendez referenced a proposed 10 percent cut to federal agencies Carson is said to have advocated for and inquired as to whether Carson favors maintaining federal housing assistance.
“If you follow carefully what I’ve been saying the concept of cutting across all the different departments was presented as a concept, in other words, not favoring one group or another group,” Carson said. “I modified that much later on to one percent.”
“But the point being we can never seem to cut because people have their programs and they say this one is sacred and this one is not.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) asked Carson to guarantee that HUD grants would not in any way benefit the business interests of President-elect Donald Trump or his family.
“I can assure you that the things that I do are driven by a sense of morals and values and therefore I will not play favorites for anyone,” Carson replied.
Warren persisted and Carson again stated that he would not advocate policies that benefit specific individuals but did concede that he would not automatically rule out grants which might benefit low income individuals as well as inadvertently help Trump.
Warren said she trusted Carson’s stewardship of grants but maintained that an inherent conflict of interest remains because the President-elect has not put his assets in a “true blind trust,” but has instead transferred them to his children.
Warren said she has introduced legislation addressing presidential conflicts of interest and urged passage of that measure.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who served as a platoon leader in Iraq, asked Carson if he would prioritize helping homeless veterans as HUD Secretary.
Carson unequivocally stated that he would and compared the premise of homeless veterans to that of African-American World War II veterans who returned home to a segregated and unequal society.
Throughout the hearing Carson stressed that HUD could be managed more efficiently and advocated for the implementation of policies that foster individual self-reliance.
This article was republished with permission from Talk Media News
Bryan is a freelance political journalist who has extensive experience covering Congress and Maryland state government.
His work includes coverage of the election of Donald Trump, the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and attorneys general William Barr and Jeff Sessions-as well as that of the Maryland General Assembly, Gov. Larry Hogan, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bryan has broken stories involving athletic and sexual assault scandals with the Baltimore Post-Examiner.
His original UMBC investigation gained international attention, was featured in People Magazine and he was interviewed by ABC’s “Good Morning America” and local radio stations. Bryan broke subsequent stories documenting UMBC’s omission of a sexual assault on their daily crime log and a federal investigation related to the university’s handling of an alleged sexual assault.