Democratic lawmakers rip Carson over cuts to housing budget, policies

Greg Nash

Democrats on a House Appropriations Committee subpanel pressed Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson Wednesday on his department’s proposal to slash funds for housing assistance.

HUD’s fiscal 2021 budget request asks for $48 billion, a cut of $8.6 billion or 15 percent compared to the current levels.  

“This is woefully inadequate to the task at hand,” said Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), chairman of the House Appropriations transportation subcommittee.

The cut comes at the expense of 43 percent of public housing funds while also eliminating programs such as the National Housing Trust Fund, Home Investment Partnerships, Community Development Block Grant and Choice Neighborhoods.

Though Price said there are a “handful of bright spots” in the “overwhelmingly grim picture” HUD’s new budget presents, “modest investments are more than offset by the draconian cuts and unrealistic program eliminations.”

That White House has previously said budget cuts are an effort to reduce the deficit, which has hit $1 trillion since Trump was elected.

In his opening statement, Carson said HUD’s budget proposal “ensures that the people HUD serves continue to receive rental assistance” while recognizing that “difficult budget choices need to be made to prevent future generations from inheriting a mountain of debt.”

Carson acknowledged the programs on the chopping block have proven successful and suggested that states do more to pick up the tab.

“It’s very difficult to get the concept across that I like those programs, I think we like those programs,” Carson said. “Can we afford them when we continue to create the kind of debt that we’re going to pass on to the next generation and ruin their lives?”

“I think those programs should be funded by the state, not necessarily by the federal government.”

Panel ranking member Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) pointed out that the Trump administration’s proposed budget stands little chance in the Democratic-controlled House.

“I’m pretty certain I know what the House and this committee will do with those recommendations,” Diaz-Balart said.

“However, Mr. Secretary, your track record shows that when we exercise the power of the purse here in Congress, you prove to be a trusted partner in executing those programs to the benefits of our constituents,” he added.

Price and Rep. Norma Torres (R-Calif.) pressed Carson on HUD’s newly enacted policy that bars families with mixed immigration status from obtaining housing assistance, a move the administration has admitted wouldn’t cut housing costs. 

Carson argued HUD is adhering to the Housing and Community Development Act of 2018, making the case for the “100,000 families [of U.S. citizens] waiting in line [for housing assistance].”

“If we don’t like it, change the laws,” he said. 

In several heated exchanges, Reps. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) confronted Carson on a Trump administration HUD policy that requires transgender people seeking housing assistance to enroll in shelters based on their gender assigned at birth. 

“I don’t disparage anyone,” Carson said. “I think everybody gets equal rights. No one gets extra rights and sometimes people interpret that as being against someone.”

Carson claimed to have letters from women’s groups that say they are uncomfortable with transgender women being allowed to stay at domestic violence shelters. 

“When you have a single-sex shelter and it’s there specifically for women who are abused and then people come in who do not appear to be women but they say they are women and you have to accept them, does that impinge upon the rights of those women?” Carson asked. 

Quigley accused the administration of enabling discrimination against transgender people “based on how they look.”

“All due respect, Mr. Secretary, a person who doesn’t see how the trans community and the LGBTQ community as a whole are being discriminated against has been living under a rock,” Quigley said.

Tags Affordable housing Ben Carson David Price Katherine Clark Mario Diaz-Balart Mike Quigley Norma Torres Public housing Transgender transgender rights
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