Ben Carson, the nominee to run the Housing and Urban Development Department, told a Senate panel Thursday that he wanted to create a “world-class housing plan” — whatever the cost.
Mr. Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and former presidential candidate, has been critical in the past of HUD’s programs and called for cutting all federal assistance programs by 10 percent, prompting questions about his advocacy for the agency budget at his confirmation hearing.
“Not only do I want to advocate for the HUD budget but — in the process of dong a listening tour and talking to the people who are there already — I want to put together a world-class plan on housing in this country,” he said.
“I want to come to you with that world-class plan and I want to convince you all that this is what we need to do,” he said. “I do not know what that [budget] number is going to be quite frankly, It might be more. It might be less. But it will be what is required to accomplish what we need to do.”
Sen. Brian Schatz, Hawaii Democrat, pressed Mr. Carson on the budget issue, noting that other of President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees appeared at odds with the agency’s they were supposed to run.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, the nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency, has sued the agency over its regulations. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, the nominee to run the Energy Department, previously proposed eliminating the agency.
Mr. Carson did not go as far in his criticism of HUD, though he said the programs sometimes keep people in poverty instead of lifting them out.
Sen. Schatz said the budget was “where the rubber hits the road” in leading an agency.
“There are other nominees that some of us feel are going to lead an agency in order to undermine its mission,” he said. “I don’t hear that from you but I’d like to hear the word that you would like to advocate for the HUD budget.”
The biggest issue in his confirmation is his lack of government experience, but committee members appeared satisfied with the abilities of the world-famous pediatric brain surgeon from Johns Hopkins Hospital.