Thursday at the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) got into a heated exchange with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson over his delay of a 2015 HUD rule on housing discrimination until 2020.
Carson said, “We were petitioned by dozens and dozens of cities and municipalities to, in fact, delay it because it cost between a hundred and eight hundred thousand dollars to follow the regulations that were put in place. They had to hire two or three people, which is great if you have a lot of money. It’s not great if you don’t.”
Warren interjected. “Excuse me, Secretary Carson. Let me just remind you. This is a question about following the law. The law clearly says ‘affirmatively further fair housings.’ It doesn’t say cut back on that because you’re concerned about compliance costs. And I have to say I am very concerned that you picked compliance costs as your answer when how you previously described your real concern as, quote, ‘This is a failed socialist experiment to try and reduce discrimination.’”
Warren continued, “A lot of people are criticizing you for spending tens of thousands in taxpayer money on fancy furniture. And don’t get me wrong, I think scamming the taxpayers is a scandal. But the biggest scandal of your tenure is your unwillingness to do your job and enforce the laws that reduce housing discrimination and segregation across this country. In 1968, the typical black family had one-sixth as much wealth as the typical white family. Now, it is one-tenth. We have gone backward since the Civil Rights era. It is HUD’s job to help end housing discrimination and that’s what the law said. You said you would enforce these laws, you haven’t. And I think that’s the scandal that should get you fired.”
Carson shot back, “I don’t think that you have characterized things in any way close to what is accurate. But you’re welcome to say whatever you want.”
Warren replied, “I really resent that remark. I have asked the question about how it is that delaying enforcement of rules that were already in place to help end housing discrimination would help. I asked you to make your case. All you could say is compliance costs were high. That does not explain how it is that you were going to delay enforcement of those rules and that was going to help end housing discrimination.”
Carson said, “I think I explained it to you quite well.”
Warren insisted, “We see that quite different. I would not describe it as quite well.”