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Ben Carson’s Confirmation Hearings as HUD Secretary Begin Thursday

by Countable | 1.12.17

President-elect Donald Trump has tapped Ben Carson as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In announcing the pick, Trump said Carson, one of 16 candidates he defeated in the 2016 Republican primaries, "has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities."

Who is Ben Carson?

Carson, 65, grew up receiving food stamps and other public assistance – including living in public housing – in some of Detroit’s rougher neighborhoods. His parents divorced when he was 8, and his mother, Sonya, worked multiple jobs while raising him and his older brother, Curtis, on her own.

In high school, he joined the Army’s Junior ROTC, reaching the rank of cadet colonel, before heading for Yale University and graduating in 1973 with a degree in psychology. He earned his M.D. from the Medical School at the University of Michigan in 1977 and completed his residency in neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. After a year working at an Australian hospital, he returned to Johns Hopkins in 1984 and, at age 33, was named director of pediatric neurosurgery. It was there that in 1987 he led a 70-member surgical team in the first successful separation of twins joined at the head. He retired from practice in 2013.

Politically, Carson at first considered himself a Democrat, even voting for George McGovern for president in 1972. But after the Republicans impeached President Bill Clinton for perjury in 1998 following discovery of his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Carson switched his affiliation to the Independence Party of Florida, explaining that he had grown tired of the "hypocrisy in both parties."

He gained popularity within conservative circles after criticizing President Barack Obama’s policies while delivering the keynote speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast – with Obama in attendance. Carson was soon thereafter hired to provide commentary for Fox News and The Washington Times.

He has said he began exploring a potential presidential run on the day of the 2014 midterm elections, the same day he officially registered as a Republican. Despite an early poll surge, his candidacy withered, and the Super Tuesday primary results persuaded him to drop out and endorse Trump, with whom he seemed relatively friendly during the often contentious debates.

A Seventh-Day Adventist, Carson has credited his faith with saving him from giving in to youthful anger and has said he refrains from eating most meats. He has received numerous medical awards, 38 honorary doctorates and in 2008, was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. He has authored six best sellers, four of them with his wife. His autobiography, "Gifted Hands," was turned into a 2009 made-for-TV movie.

He and Lacena "Candy" Rustin met as students at Yale. They married in 1975. Besides being a writer, she is a former concert violinist and a longtime vegetarian. The couple has three sons and several grandchildren and lives in West Palm Beach, Fla.

What’s the outlook for his confirmation?

It’s likely that he’ll be confirmed – but not without a fight. The Democrats are already marshaling their efforts to thwart the confirmation. Carson was initially named to the Trump transition team, and his opponents are expected to pounce on his admission that he lacked the experience to serve in the Cabinet.

More than 30 housing and urban affairs academics have signed an open letter voicing their "strong opposition" to placing Carson at HUD’s helm. They cite his lack of experience in managing any large bureaucracy and his “publicly expressed disdain for HUD’s particular mission to ensure a safe home for every American.” And outgoing HUD Secretary Julián Castro has expressed concern that the department would “go backwards” under Carson.

But key Republicans maintain that he would bring a fresh perspective and "brain power" to the post. And Carson himself points to the fact that he grew up poor yet became a doctor with a large patient base drawn from the inner-city as a unique qualifier. Ultimately, with the GOP’s Senate majority, Carson appears a shoo-in, if only after intense vetting by his many detractors.

You can tell your senators how to vote on Carson's confirmation using the "Take Action" button.

What does the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development do?

Its task is to ensure access to "fair and equal housing" by supporting homeownership, increasing the number of safe and affordable rentals, reducing homelessness and fighting discrimination. The department’s Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) assists low-income families, the disabled and the elderly. HUD also oversees the Federal Housing Administration, which makes homeownership possible for people found ineligible for traditional mortgages.

In 2015, HUD was allocated over $48 billion in funding and around that time it employed more than 8,400 workers.

— Erin Wright

(Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Creative Commons)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(1,347)
  • Flygirl
    01/12/2017
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    NO, we don't need another religious nutcase in the cabinet!

    Like (46)
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  • Jennifer
    01/13/2017
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    Please vote no on Ben Carson. He has no qualifications and has himself express doubt over his ability to be a top official in the US government.

    Like (38)
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  • Alice
    01/13/2017
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    Ben Carson has no idea what he's doing. Please vote no.

    Like (30)
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  • Abby
    01/12/2017
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    Please do not approve Carson's nomination. He admitted himself he does not have the experience.

    Like (27)
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  • Stuart
    01/23/2017
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    Please do not confirm Mr Carson. He is not qualified to run this agency, and he said as much earlier.

    Like (23)
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  • Dan
    01/12/2017
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    Dr. Ben Carson has no experience which gives him the qualifications necessary to head the HUD. Please do not confirm Dr. Ben Carson for HUD.

    Like (19)
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  • Judy
    01/13/2017
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    No, nothing but a nut case, no experience!

    Like (17)
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  • Nisel
    01/13/2017
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    In what world is Carson qualified to do this job? Do not confirm!!

    Like (17)
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  • Xenologer
    01/12/2017
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    I pity every competent employee of DHUD if Ben Carson is confirmed as their boss. He has no qualifications for the position and he knows it. What is the point of this?

    Like (16)
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  • Jeanene
    01/13/2017
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    Do not confirm Dr. Carson as Secretary of HUD. He is not Qualified.

    Like (15)
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  • Tonia
    01/23/2017
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    Ben Carson is the wrong person for the job. He knows nothing about Housing, vote No!

    Like (14)
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  • Lauren
    01/12/2017
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    Ben Carson, like all other Trump cabinet nominees, is uniquely unqualified for the position he has been nominated to lead. Mr. Carson has publicly stated that he is unqualified to serve as the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). A Carson spokesperson told The Hill in November, prior to his being selected as the HUD nominee, that “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.” I think it would be wise to listen to Carson s own assessment of his lack of qualifications. Please vote NO on Ben Carson.

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  • Carmen
    01/13/2017
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    Vote no! Unqualified, uninspired, and unresponsive....it doesn't take a brain surgeon to realize this man should not be in charge of HUD.

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  • JayinNC
    01/12/2017
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    Trump is an idiot, make Carson Surgeon not HUD secretary I get he's black so he know all about HUD. Give me a break Trump is a racist Idiot...

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  • Diane
    01/23/2017
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    Please vote no

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  • Marginalia
    01/24/2017
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    Vote no on unqualified Carson!

    Like (11)
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  • Jennifer
    01/12/2017
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    Carson has stayed he is unqualified to head a federal agency and I think he deserves to be taken at his word.

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  • Judy
    01/13/2017
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    Vote against.

    Like (11)
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  • Toni
    01/24/2017
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    Do not confirm Ben Carson. He is not fit for this position at all!

    Like (11)
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  • Robin
    01/13/2017
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    No! He is not qualified!

    Like (10)
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