Rep. Maxine Waters: 'Housing Is a Necessary Human Right'

Susan Jones | October 13, 2017 | 8:19am EDT
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Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), used a HUD oversight hearing on Oct. 12, 2017 to slam President Trump. (Screen grab from video on House Financial Services Committee website.)

( - Prominent liberals, Sen. Bernie Sanders among them, insist that health care is a human right, and the same can be said about housing, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said on Thursday.

Waters, the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, was among several African-American Democrats on the committee who blasted HUD Secretary Ben Carson as uncaring and incompetent because he supports the Trump administration's budget cuts.

"In the face of the immense housing needs in our country, President Trump chose Dr. Ben Carson to serve as the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development," Waters said in her opening statement at the HUD oversight hearing.

She continued:

The secretary of HUD is supposed to be at the forefront of our efforts to create strong communities; expand access to safe, decent and affordable housing; and enforce fair housing rights.

Housing is the foundation on which our entire society is built. It is a platform for economic mobility and well-being. It is a crucial part of our national economy. It is a necessary human right.

We need strong leadership and a bold vision for HUD in order to expand access to affordable housing in this country. Unfortunately, I have seen nothing to indicate that Secretary Carson is up to the challenge.

Waters and a few other Democrats complained that Carson supports President Trump's budget, "which slashes funding for critical housing programs."

Carson told the committee that "spending more taxpayer dollars does not necessarily create better outcomes."

"We must constantly evaluate our programs to ensure that we are delivering services effectively and efficiently to HUD's constituents and responding to today's challenges with the best practices and technologies," the secretary said. Carson added that he's working to "reform our programs and remain careful stewards of taxpayer dollars."

Rep. Waters had three opportunities to question Carson, because two Democrats yielded their time to her. She spent much of that time asking Carson if he agrees with various tweets and statements Trump has made.

Among other things, Waters asked Carson if he agrees with Trump, who "threatened to abandon Puerto Rico recovery efforts. Do you agree that they should be abandoned, that Puerto Rico should be abandoned?"

Carson said, "Of course it should not be abandoned."

Waters, quoting Trump's tweet about Puerto Rico's precarious electric grid before the hurricanes struck, also asked Carson if Puerto Rico "should be shamed for its own plight."

"I don't think it's beneficial to go around shaming people in general," Carson replied.

Later, Waters asked Carson, "I want to know if you think it's appropriate that the president and his family are profiting from any federal government funding intended to support low-income families."

"I don't think it's appropriate for public officials in general to do that," Carson said.

Waters also asked Carson about Trump mocking a disabled journalist during the campaign, and whether the HUD budget cuts reflect Trump’s alleged disdain for the disabled.

"Well, you know, I'm not really here to talk about the president. I really want to talk about the people that we're trying to help," Carson replied.

Several other African-American lawmakers threw verbal barbs at Carson, prompting Republican Rep. Bill Posey of Florida to apologize to Carson:

“You know, unfortunately, there's a lot of people that somehow benefit from people being dependent on government, because they think it keeps them being elected. I think self-sufficiency is the way to go, and you obviously do too. And thank you for your efforts to transfer people from dependency to self-sufficiency.

“I want apologize for some of the mean and nasty comments made toward you today. They're undeserving. They're attempts to shame you, while they criticize the government for attempting to shame somebody -- the president for attempting to shame somebody. That may be logical to some people, but I'm sure it's probably foreign to you, and you're probably wondering about that. Most intelligent people would,” Posey told Carson.

"Yeah, I'm used to it," Carson said.

"Yeah," Posey replied. "Most intelligent people would."

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