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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 SessionsFBI investigated whether McCabe leaked info about Flynn and Trump to media Ex-Senate Intel staffer pleads guilty to lying to feds over contacts with journalists House Judiciary chairman threatens to subpoena Rosenstein 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 Ann WarrenHatch mocks Warren over DNA test with his own results showing '1/1032 T-Rex' Warren DNA test reinvigorates fight with Trump On The Money: Deficit hits six-year high of 9 billion | Yellen says Trump attacks threaten Fed | Affordable housing set for spotlight in 2020 race 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. 

 
"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.