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Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson gets hearing for HUD chief

New Delhi Times 2017-01-12 17:30:40

Ben Carson’s celebrated career as a neurosurgeon leaves no doubt about his medical credentials, but his lack of experience in government and public policy will be questioned at his confirmation hearings to be housing secretary in the new Trump administration.

President-elect Donald Trump tapped Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, turning to a former GOP presidential rival who had backed Trump early on but also suggested he wasn’t interested in a Cabinet-level position. In a turnaround, Carson took to Facebook to say he would, in fact, take a role in the new administration and hoped to make “our inner cities great for everyone.”

Carson’s vision for the sprawling department of 8,300 employees — with a $48 billion budget — will take center stage Thursday at the Senate Banking, House and Urban Affairs Committee hearing.

Ahead of the hearing, Democrats questioned Carson’s experience and priorities. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, in a letter this week to the retired surgeon, said the agency needs a strong, capable leader who believes in its mission.

“There is relatively little in the public record that reveals how you would further HUD’s mission to ‘create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all,'” Warren said.

The letter lists dozens of questions, including asking what Carson thinks about the condition of public housing, whether ending homelessness among veterans should be a priority and how he would ensure equal access to HUD programs to same-sex couples and others.

The soft-spoken Carson, the only black major-party candidate in the White House race, grew up poor, raised by a single mother in inner-city Detroit. He attended Yale University and the University of Michigan Medical School before becoming the first African-American named as the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore.

In 1987, at age 35, Carson became famous for pioneering surgery to separate twins joined at the back of the head. In 2013, he entered the national political spotlight during the National Prayer Breakfast when he railed against the modern welfare state, with President Barack Obama sitting just feet away.

Carson has not said much publicly about affordable housing, homelessness and other HUD-related issues. Last summer, however, he criticized a new Obama administration fair housing rule as government overreach, saying the regulation relied on “a tortured reading of the Fair Housing laws to empower the Department of Housing and Urban Development to ‘affirmatively promote’ fair housing, even in the absence of explicit discrimination.”

Credit : Associated Press (AP) | Photo Credit : (AP)

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