South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott praised President-Elect Donald Trump’s decision to nominate Dr. Ben Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), suggesting in an interview this week that the “brilliant” neurosurgeon could bring a “fresh perspective” to the department.
“You bring a guy who we all know is brilliant into a space without any set of preconceived ideas…Someone who’s done very well in life who actually lived in poverty and now is going to help other who live in the same place he lived in get better,” Scott said. “That’s good news for those folks living there.”
Carson, a former Republican presidential candidate, grew up poor in Detroit before going on to become one of the most prominent neurosurgeons in the country. Scott suggested that background may be helpful to Carson as he embarks on his new job.
“As a person born in Detroit, who has seen the revitalization happen in Detroit, I think he will take with a new lens the approach that is consistent with how do you rebuild some of the areas of our country that have to be rebuilt for our country the American family to prosper together? I think he will take a very conscientious approach,” Scott predicted.
The South Carolina Republican, who’s currently the only black Republican in the Senate, mentioned one specific shortcoming at HUD that Carson may be able to address. “So many folks who are poor and looking for ways to improve their plight live in housing that has not been inspected for years. And yet there sits in an account millions of dollars waiting to be used for inspections,” Scott explained. “The current administration has not done that. I think bringing in a fresh pair of eyes of someone who is going to be meticulous about the details is going to be very helpful. I think we’ll see millions of dollars that have been sitting there used for inspections to improve the quality of life, to improve the quality of the living space of the folks that are living in HUD houses.”
Asked what he’ll listen for during Carson’s confirmation hearing, Scott replied, “I want to know his vision for improving the use of the resources given to HUD, number one. Number two, how do you create a path that transitions people out of government subsidized housing into the free market?”
Scott also suggested that Trump’s decision to tap Carson for the post signals that HUD will be a priority for his administration. “One of his closest allies in the last several months of the campaign was Ben Carson and to put one of your closest allies into such a strategic position I think sends an important signal that he is serious about improving the quality of life in the urban areas,” the senator explained.
In contrast to his effusive praise of Carson, Scott became notably more circumspect when he was asked about another of Mr. Trump’s recent staffing picks – the selection of former Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon as his chief strategist.
Critics have accused Bannon of stoking white nationalism, racism, and anti-semitism during his tenure at Breitbart, a right-wing news website. Scott, for his part, said he’s never met Bannon, and he suggested he’s reluctant to judge someone he doesn’t know.
“I don’t know Mr. Bannon at all. Never met him. Never been to the Breibart site,” Scott said. “So it’s hard for me to comment on anything other than what I’ve seen in the press. What I think we will have to do is judge the Trump administration by what comes out of the Trump administration and not the collective pieces.”
“Right, but if Ben Carson sends a signal, surely then Bannon does as well,” Face the Nation moderator John Dickerson said. “What kind of a signal do you think that is?”
“Can’t tell you, to be honest with you,” Scott replied. “What I know about Ben Carson is through personal interaction, watching him on the campaign trail…I’m very cautious to have a conversation about someone [with] whom I have not had a conversation at all.”
For more of Dickerson’s interview with Sen. Tim Scott, tune in tomorrow. Check your local listings for airtimes.