The Senate advanced Dr. Ben Carson’s nomination to lead HUD, agreeing to end debate on his confirmation and setting up a final vote later this week. Democrats joined a unified Republican caucus in support of Carson after he won broad support from banking and housing leaders.
Carson, a retired neurosurgeon with no housing or mortgage experience, faced no serious organized opposition to his confirmation after a smooth confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee in January. He is the only African-American nominated to President Donald Trump’s Cabinet.
Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who voted for Carson in the Banking Committee, switched her vote Wednesday after taking heat from progressives. The banking panel’s ranking member, Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), voted to advance the nomination to the full Senate.
Carson has been meeting with mortgage groups, low-income housing advocates and banking lobbyists while he awaits confirmation. He plans a countrywide listening tour soon after taking office.
Carson will manage a nearly $50 billion budget and some 8,000 employees who oversee most of the nation’s affordable housing programs. He will arrive at an agency facing two big challenges: an acute shortage of low-income housing and a growing government footprint in the mortgage market.
The Federal Housing Administration, which is part of HUD, manages a $1.6 trillion mortgage portfolio and currently funds 34 percent of the home loan market, making it a close second in size to Fannie Mae, the mortgage giant that has been under government conservatorship since the housing collapse.
HUD’s mission is dedicated to housing in the broadest sense — the agency plays a role in education, transportation and community redevelopment and could be central to Trump’s efforts to boost job opportunities and fund infrastructure.
While housing and civil rights advocates haven’t actively opposed Carson, they will be watching closely to see how the agency enforces anti-discrimination laws, including the Fair Housing Act.
Last year, in an op-ed for The Washington Times, Carson targeted an Obama administration rule that requires cities and localities to use data to ferret out patterns of segregation, calling it a “social-engineering” scheme.
“These government-engineered attempts to legislate racial equality create consequences that often make matters worse,” Carson wrote. “Based on the history of failed socialist experiments in this country, entrusting the government to get it right can prove downright dangerous.”