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5 things to know about Ben Carson’s HUD confirmation hearing

By Eliza Collins, USA TODAY

Ben Carson is a renowned neurosurgeon, but he’s never held public office, so there’s a lot we don’t know about what he would do in a government position. On Thursday, Carson is appearing before members of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, who will be quizzing him about a variety of topics.

Here’s what we do know:

Carson’s spokesman said he was unqualified for the Cabinet

Carson spent almost a year running for president. But when his name first was floated as a member of Trump’s Cabinet, his spokesman told multiple media outlets that Carson did not feel qualified.

“Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience, he’s never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency,” adviser Armstrong Williams told The Hill shortly after the election.

But eventually Carson decided he had what it takes.

He’s been critical of the department he’s supposed to lead

In a Washington Times editorial in July 2015, Carson criticized efforts by HUD to desegregate housing by “’affirmatively promot[ing] fair housing, even in the absence of explicit discrimination.” Carson said that the government had performed multiple failed experiments related to race — he cited busing of African American students to desegregate schools as an example.

“These government-engineered attempts to legislate racial equality create consequences that often make matters worse. There are reasonable ways to use housing policy to enhance the opportunities available to lower-income citizens, but based on the history of failed socialist experiments in this country, entrusting the government to get it right can prove downright dangerous,” Carson wrote.

The current HUD secretary is concerned about Carson

Secretary Julian Castro told NPR that he had spoken with Carson about the job but still expressed concern about the prospect of Carson taking over.

“I’d be lying if I said that I’m not concerned about the possibility of going backward over the next four years,” Castro told NPR this week.

Carson grew up in ‘dire poverty’

One of the reasons Trump chose Carson for the position is his life story, which began in a poor neighborhood in Detroit and ultimately led to him being head of the pediatric neurosurgery department at Johns Hopkins and separating conjoined twins. When announcing Carson’s nomination, Trump went through his biography.

Carson and Trump were rivals

If confirmed, Carson will be working closely with Trump. The two were rivals during the Republican primary and things got brutal at times. In November 2015, Trump said Carson had a “pathological temper.” Later, after Carson dropped out, the two put their bitter past behind them and Carson became one of Trump’s advisers and most utilized surrogates.

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