On January 12 the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing to consider the nomination of Dr. Ben Carson to serve as HUD Secretary. Dr. Carson emphasized several themes throughout the hearing, including increasing private sector participation in the housing market, encouraging self-sufficiency in assisted housing, exploring the connection between health and housing, reducing regulatory burden, and reviewing the HUD budget and each HUD program with an eye towards reform. He also acknowledged that HUD programs, including rental subsidies, are an essential part of the social safety net and indicated his interest in undertaking a “listening tour” to hear from stakeholders within and outside of HUD to learn more about the department’s programs and their efficacy, as well as ideas for improvements. The hearing also focused on Dr. Carson’s background growing up in a low-income neighborhood in Detroit and experiencing poverty firsthand. The Senate Banking Committee has scheduled a vote on the nomination for January 24. Read more about the nomination hearing on the Enterprise blog.
Steven Mnuchin appeared before the Senate Finance Committee January 19 for a hearing to consider his nomination to serve as Treasury Secretary. Members on both sides of the aisle raised comprehensive tax reform as a top priority, and there was bipartisan interest in bringing American profits back to the U.S. from overseas and eliminating loopholes that allow American businesses to avoid U.S. tax laws. Though there was little discussion of specific tax reform proposals, several Republican members called for significant reductions in corporate tax rates and simplification of the tax code in order to make U.S. businesses more competitive, and numerous Democrats called for a commitment to preserve tax expenditures that benefit low- and moderate-income families and promote fairness through the tax code. Mnuchin also fielded a number of questions about his role in the foreclosure crisis. “Any claims that Mr. Mnuchin’s businesses contributed to the housing and foreclosure crisis that precipitated the financial collapse of 2008 are similarly lacking in merit,” Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said, while Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) countered that Mnuchin’s former firm OneWest “churned out foreclosures.” Secretary-Designate Mnuchin vowed to “work diligently so that we never see anything like the 2008 meltdown ever again.”