It actually happened, folks: A retired doctor with zero public policy or management experience is now the nation’s secretary of housing and urban development.
The U.S. Senate voted 58-41 this morning to confirm Ben Carson’s nomination to lead the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Most expected the upper house to confirm him anyway after a committee voted unanimously to move his nomination forward in January, but today’s vote made it official.
Given his lack of experience in public office, some senators, including both of those serving Maryland, weren’t going to let the confirmation come without a fight. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen both adamantly opposed the move to approve the former doctor who rose to fame in their home state.
Cardin was mightily disappointed after the vote. In a statement, he recognized Carson’s medical background as impressive, but said he was more concerned with Carson’s ability to lead a department whose decisions can make or break the lives of millions.
“I appreciate Dr. Carson’s willingness to serve our nation, but HUD is not the place for him,” Cardin’s statement said.
Carson entered the political fray in 2015 as a surprise contender for the Republican presidential nomination, running on a platform of disdain for concentrated government power that was buoyed by his inspiring personal story of growing up in poverty in Detroit and later becoming a gifted surgeon. After he dropped out of the presidential race, he emerged as a staunch supporter of Donald Trump.
His loyalty paid off. Trump indicated shortly after he was elected that he would offer Carson a position in his cabinet. After a goofy game in which Carson denied that he wanted Cabinet consideration, then corrected his spokesman while blaming the media, and then said he was actually being considered for multiple positions, Trump officially nominated him for HUD secretary.
This alarmed most people who understand the important role that HUD plays. The agency has a budget of $47 billion and serves millions of Americans enrolled in low-income housing assistance programs. But Carson indicated in the past that he feels many of HUD’s programs are useless, writing in a 2015 op-ed in the Washington Times that the agency was guilty of failed “social engineering” through its enforcement of fair and equal housing policies.
During his confirmation hearing in January, Carson couldn’t even promise Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., that he wouldn’t alter the agency’s budget in a way that would personally benefit Donald Trump or his family. In response to her first question, Carson giggled maniacally at his own joke and avoided directly answering the question, saying only that he wouldn’t “play favorites” and that it “was not his intention” to benefit Trump.
The New York Times reports Carson has agreed to work with senators by telling them about any dealings with firms owned by President Trump or his family.
Cardin noted in his statement that Carson toned down his disapproval for HUD’s social welfare programs during his confirmation hearing, but said he remains “concerned that his initial comments were more reflective of his true beliefs and not just what he thought the committee wanted to hear.”
Six Democrats and one independent reportedly joined Senate Republicans in approving Carson for his new position.