WASHINGTON: The next Trump administration Cabinet nominee up for a vote in the Senate is celebrated neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Approval is expected when senators vote Thursday on President Donald Trump's choice to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Carson has no government or housing policy experience, and Democrats were critical early on about his credentials. Despite that, he won unanimous support in a Senate committee vote in January. On Wednesday, Carson cleared a Senate hurdle when lawmakers voted, 62-37, to move his nomination to a final vote.
Also Wednesday, Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke won Senate confirmation as President Donald Trump's Interior secretary. With his approval, the Senate has confirmed 16 out of 22 of Trump's Cabinet and Cabinet-level nominations.
Carson, 65, has been praised by Republicans for his inspiring life story, growing up poor, defying odds and becoming a renowned surgeon. After expressing concerns about his lack of housing experience, Democrats welcomed his promises to address lead hazards in housing, homelessness and other issues.
The department Carson would lead has more than 8,000 employees and a budget of about $47 billion. The agency provides billions of dollars in housing assistance to low-income people through vouchers and public housing. It also enforces fair housing laws and offers mortgage insurance to poorer Americans through the Federal Housing Administration, part of HUD.
Trump lauded his nominee last week, calling him a "totally brilliant neurosurgeon" who has saved many lives.
"We're going to do great things in our African-American communities," Trump said, appearing together with Carson recently on a tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.
"Ben is going to work with me very, very closely. And HUD has a meaning far beyond housing. If properly done, it's a meaning that's as big as anything there is, and Ben will be able to find that true meaning and the true meaning of HUD as its secretary," said Trump.
Carson was the only black major-party candidate in the White House race last year.
He has not shared specific plans publicly for the department under his leadership. At his confirmation hearing earlier this year, Carson told lawmakers that he envisioned forging a more "holistic approach" to helping people and developing "the whole person." He didn't offer many details.
In 1987, Carson became famous for pioneering surgery to separate twins joined at the back of the head. In 2013, he entered the national political spotlight during the National Prayer Breakfast when he railed against the modern welfare state, with President Barack Obama sitting just feet away.