Unlike past hearings that tend to be filled with political theatre from both sides of the aisle, the mood of Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s hearing before the House Financial Services Committee was more emotional in light of current events.
As Carson gave an update on the health of America’s housing system and fielded questions from representatives, the impact of the current events going on outside of the room could clearly be felt inside of it.
Housing remains one of the core pillars of America and ties into many other parts of the government. And as a result, a lot of the concerns over recent natural disasters or healthcare reforms falls into HUD’s lap as well.
In his opening testimony, before addressing the housing reform or the strength of the mutual mortgage insurance fund, Carson addressed America’s current crisis.
“First, please know that, right now, HUD is involved in the federal response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria that damaged and devastated areas of Texas, Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Carson. “On a daily basis, in our interagency leadership role as the Coordinating Department for the Housing Recovery Support Function, HUD’s team is coordinating with our Federal, State, territorial, and local agency partners in the field, providing temporary and long-term housing solutions for survivors, and helping HUD-assisted clients and FHA-insured mortgage borrowers.”
The hearing was filled with questions from frustrated representatives on President Donald Trump’s ability to help in the recovery of the hurricanes.
During her questioning, Rep. Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y., pressed Carson on Trump’s need to help Puerto Rico recover since interrogating Carson would be as close as she could get to interrogating the president.
In situations like these, Carson continuously attempted to turn the conversation back to HUD, saying, “I think it would be better to talk about things that don’t divide the people. I think we should talk about positive things.”
But this tone of frustration even went beyond hurricane relief efforts.
After sharing a story of his difficult upbringing that he noted shared a lot of similarities to Carson’s, Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo., left the room, giving up the rest of his allotted time. And he wasn’t the only Representative who came close to tears while sharing stories of how they were raised.
In between these tense moments, Carson did receive questions on the HUD, such as this one on how the government is considering ending use of False Claims Act against FHA lenders.
He also touched on the need for housing finance reform, saying, “We are now entering the 10th year of the government-sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, being placed into conservatorship, which is much too long for this issue to remain unresolved. We must think comprehensively about reform, so that changes do not cause unintended consequences.”
However, these concerns seemed to be overshadowed by questions with separate agendas.