Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who challenged Donald Trump for the GOP presidential nomination, won Senate confirmation Thursday to join Trump's Cabinet as housing secretary. Six Democrats and one independent joined 51 Republicans in voting for Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the AP reports. Carson has never held public office and has no housing policy experience, but GOPers have praised the life story of a man who grew up in inner-city Detroit with a single mom who had a third-grade education. Carson, 65, will lead an agency with some 8,300 employees and a budget of about $47 billion. The department provides billions of dollars in housing assistance to low-income people through vouchers and public housing, enforces fair housing laws, and offers mortgage insurance to poorer Americans through the FHA, part of HUD.
At his confirmation hearing, he told lawmakers he envisioned forging a more "holistic approach" to helping people and developing "the whole person." Under questioning from Dems, Carson said HUD's rental assistance is "essential" to millions of Americans and that the department has many good programs, though he added, "We don't want it to be [a] way of life." He also said he'd like more partnerships with the private sector and religious groups. When his nomination cleared the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee in January, Democrats said Carson wouldn't have been their choice, but they welcomed his promises to address homelessness and other issues. He was approved unanimously in the committee. Trump lauded Carson last week, calling him a "totally brilliant neurosurgeon." Carson hasn't shared specific plans publicly for the department under his leadership.