WASHINGTON ― Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced Tuesday that they will vote to confirm retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson as the nation’s next secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Brown said he would give Carson, President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the department, “the benefit of the doubt” based on assurances he’d received from Carson that he would address issues such as lead hazards, fair housing and homelessness.
“Dr. Carson is not the nominee I would have chosen to lead HUD, due both to his lack of experience and his often troubling public statements over the last three years,” Brown, the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, said in a statement. “But despite my reservations, and my disagreements with some of his positions, I will give Dr. Carson the benefit of the doubt based on commitments he has made to me in person and to this committee.”
Brown added that Carson had promised to uphold the housing rights of LGBTQ individuals and work to bolster housing in the president’s proposed infrastructure plan.
“I will do everything in my power to hold Dr. Carson accountable for making good on his promises,” the Ohio senator said.
Warren, for her part, also expressed “concerns about Dr. Carson’s inexperience in the field and his comments on poverty and government dependency,” but said she was reassured by the promises Carson made in written questions to the committee.
The senators’ decision to support Carson, who has never held public office, comes as a surprise. As two of the most prominent progressive voices in the country, Brown and Warren mounted a pointed inquiry into Carson’s views on public housing and the minimum wage during his confirmation hearing last week.
Brown noted that Carson had previously described the Fair Housing Act, a piece of civil rights legislation that HUD is partially responsible for enforcing, as a “failed socialist experiment.” Carson, however, said he was merely “opposed to central dictation of peoples’ lives,” and that he wanted more local control over such programs.
Brown will face re-election in 2018 in Ohio, a state that Trump carried by a margin of 8 percentage points.