It looks like a lock for Dr. Ben Carson.
Even after his plainspoken proclamation that gay Americans were not due any special rights, apart from those already afforded every American, Dr. Carson had a relatively smooth ride, and is expected to easily clear the Senate Banking Committee, to earn confirmation as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
The former neurosurgeon offered uncompromising statements on several controversial issues, and didn’t elicit any significant opposition from Republicans during Thursday’s hearing. With 12 Republican votes and 11 Democratic votes on the panel, Carson only needs to avoid any Republican defections to advance to a vote in the full Senate.
During the hearing, two Democrats from states won by President-elect Trump signaled that they did not intend to try to hold up his confirmation: Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Others signaled that they were taking a friendly approach to his confirmation process, even if they weren’t committed to supporting him.
“You’ve done an incredible job,” said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, the freshman Democrat from Nevada, at the hearing’s end.
During the two hour period of testimony, Carson called Obama’s housing diversity rule, a “central dictation of people’s lives.”
He promised to take a closer look at the rate cut on premiums for mortgage insurance backed by the FHA. He also promised to cut back on regulations that might stifle building and lending.
He even suggested that the private sector might be able to replace government guarantees for mortgages in maintaining the existence of the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage — the closest thing to a sacred cow in housing finance policy. Concerns over the availability of the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage helped stall a House Republican effort to overhaul housing finance in 2013.
And he promised that he would defend HUD’s budget, rather than slashing it as suggested by campaign trail comments. Furthermore, he said that he intended to embark on a national listening tour after confirmation, and afterward “put together a world-class plan for housing in this country.” That plan, he said, might involve less spending, but it also might involve increasing it.
Department secretaries don’t often embark on “listening” tours, but if it proves successful in fixing problems within the housing system in this country, then by all means, get out there and mix it up, Dr. Carson!