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Senate committee clears Carson nomination

Senate committee clears Carson nomination
© Greg Nash

The Senate cleared the way on Tuesday for Ben Carson to take the helm of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The Senate Banking Committee approved Carson’s nomination, sending it to the floor for final confirmation.

President Trump’s Cabinet picks need only a simple majority to clear the Senate, which means Carson can be confirmed with only Republican support and Democrats cannot filibuster.

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Senators only questioned Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon who has never worked in government, for two and a half hours during his confirmation hearing earlier this month.

That was a contrast to other Trump picks, such as attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsHouse Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists Senate Judiciary begins investigation into DOJ lawmaker subpoenas NSA leaker Reality Winner released from federal prison MORE (R-Ala.), who faced nearly 12 hours of questions.

Carson, who ran for president in 2016, himself once questioned whether he is fit to run a large federal agency.

"Having me as a federal bureaucrat would be like a fish out of water," he said in November, on the heels of rumors that he would be considered for Trump's Cabinet.

But while there were some tough questions during his hearing, senators were largely deferential and skirted the experience question.

Carson did find himself in one heated exchange with Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenProgressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC On The Money: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process on Wednesday | Four states emerge as test case for cutting off jobless benefits Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC MORE (D-Mass.) during his hearing, over whether he would grant HUD contracts to build affordable housing units to real estate companies associated with Trump.

Carson said he had no intention of “playing favorites” but would not commit outright to blocking Trump-linked real estate companies from receiving HUD contracts.

It is unclear how Carson will shape the agency. He told lawmakers in his confirmation hearing that he wants to have "listening sessions" with housing officials around the country.

It also remains to be seen whether Carson would uphold an Obama administration rule that puts teeth into fair housing laws. When questioned by senators on the issue, he remained noncommittal. 

Carson, a conservative Christian, received criticism for suggesting that LGBT Americans don’t deserve “extra rights.”

But none of those issues stopped the committee from moving his nomination forward Tuesday. 

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownBiden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal How Biden can get the infrastructure bill through Congress Democrats reintroduce bill to create 'millionaires surtax' MORE (D-Ohio) said Tuesday he would give Carson "the benefit of the doubt" because of the his commitment to addressing lead hazards in public housing, cutting down on homelessness and protecting LGBT individuals.
 
"I will do everything in my power to hold Dr. Carson accountable for making good on his promises.”
 
Brown is up for reelection in 2018 in a state that Trump won.