WATCH | Dr. Ben Carson talked with Circa before he was confirmed about what he's going to do as HUD Secretary.
Dr. Ben Carson, the former neurosurgeon and presidential candidate, has been confirmed by the Senate with a 58-41 vote to be President Trump’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The agency had a budget of $47 billion in 2016 and employed 8,000 people.
Carson told Circa that his first task at HUD will be to listen. “It’s going to be very important to do a listening tour that starts in the building," he said. "And then I want to go around the country and I want to look at things that really worked well and things that do not work well.”
Amy Liu, vice president and director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institute, said a listening tour is an ideal way for Carson -- a housing policy neophyte -- to begin his tenure.
"I think the first thing that Carson should do is admit that he doesn't know that much about housing, which is something that he has already done," Liu told Circa. "And use that as an opportunity to learn, to go on a listening tour."
Leading House Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) was more skeptical of Carson's ability to head the department. When Carson's nomination was announced, Cummings released a statement calling him "woefully unqualified."
Carson, however, is confident that he will be able to meet the challenges of his new post and help the agency better serve Americans.
“Well, it’s not nearly as complex as neurosurgery. Not nearly," Carson said. "But the implications are very important, and learning to use things that have been done before as stepping stones to get to where we want to be. And where we want to be is a point where we develop human capital.”
Even before embarking on his listening tour, Carson is well aware of some of the issues he will face at HUD. “It’s very important that we come up to speed very quickly on IT,” he said.
I think anyone who has been objective will be ecstatic.
Carson draws confidence from the knowledge that he has Trump's full support. “He’s completely on board with all of this," Carson told Circa. "He supports it and wants to make sure that we are successful in our mission.”
Trump has already started making changes at HUD. Shortly after his inauguration he signed an executive order that reversed an action by President Obama that reduced the mortgage fee the Federal Housing Administration charges. Trump believes this fee will help FHA remain solvent if people begin defaulting on their mortgages.