Secretary of Housing and Urban Development nominee Dr. Ben Carson shared his vision of poor people depending less on government during his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday, the Washington Post reports.
Carson told the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee that he would promote a larger role for the private sector in addressing poverty and ending generational dependence on government assistance.
He said HUD has enacted “good programs” over the years.
“But in and of themselves they’re not bringing about the elevation of large numbers of people,” he said. “And that’s what we’re looking for. We don’t want it to be a way of life, we want it to be a Band-Aid and a springboard to move forward.”
Carson shared his person story of being raised in poverty by a single mother who taught him self-reliance and preached pulling oneself up by the bootstraps.
The New York Times said that message apparently “framed the retired neurosurgeon’s views on urban renewal, mandated racial integration and the proper role of government in addressing the nation’s social woes.”
Republicans on the committee aligned with Carson, The Post noted. The newspaper pointed to an exchange with Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), as a prime example. The senator said North Carolina’s cutback on unemployment insurance benefited residents by making them self-reliant.
The former GOP presidential candidate, however, had “tense moments” with Democrats on the committee, The Post said.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) wanted to know whether Carson would support government rental assistance for poor families, given his comments on the campaign trail.
Carson responded that the program is “essential.”
He added: “What I’ve said, if you’ve been reading my writing, is that when it comes to entitlement programs, it is cruel and unusual punishment to cut those programs before you have provided an alternative route.”
Democrats also had concerns about how Carson would balance his leadership of HUD and his relationship with the incoming president, Donald Trump, who has a real estate empire.
ABC News reported that Carson avoided giving a direct answer to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) question about assuring the nation that he would not use his position as housing secretary to financially benefit the Trump family’s real estate development business.
Carson, if confirmed, would bring no experience in housing and urban development policy to HUD’s top post. In fact, Carson originally said he would decline a cabinet position because he had never operated a large government bureaucracy.