Ben Carson does not want to talk about the housing budget.

Watch Rep. Al Green Roast Ben Carson Like a Marshmallow

Watch Rep. Al Green Roast Ben Carson Like a Marshmallow

The Slatest
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Oct. 25 2017 2:50 PM

Watch Rep. Al Green Roast Ben Carson Like a Marshmallow

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Ben Carson, do more.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

At a hearing on Tuesday, Rep. Al Green grilled Housing Secretary Ben Carson about the $6 billion cuts to HUD outlined in the federal budget proposal the Trump administration released in March.

Henry Grabar Henry Grabar

Henry Grabar is a staff writer for Slate’s Moneybox.

Federal officials testifying before Congress typically try to say as little of import as possible, and this session was no exception. And that obstinance is just fine with opposition lawmakers, who exploit the situation to deploy fiery one-liners that they hope go viral on sites like this one.

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For Green, who represents Houston, that included:

  • “You don't get to talk about what you want to today. You get to talk about what I want you to talk about.”
  • “This is something that’s within your bailiwick my dear sir.”
  • “I accept your lack of knowledge.”

Carson has a point in declining to discuss the numbers: Why go over the fantasy budget that Trump released seven months ago, which even Republicans said was crazy? Cutting 13 percent of the HUD budget would make thousands of families homeless overnight.

Still, one of the HUD chief’s main roles is to advocate for the agency and the people who depend on it. Carson has never seemed interested in that, even as the plight of poor Americans without federal housing assistance grows more and more dire. Last month, he told PlanPhilly’s Jake Blumgart that it “didn’t matter” what the final department budget was.

It does, of course, and even those little signals of uncertainty have ripple effects. As recently as April, 900 families in Green’s hometown of Houston had their newly granted Section 8 vouchers rescinded after HUD asked authorities to trim their belts in preparation for budget shortfalls.

For more commentary, watch Desus and Mero take on Green versus Carson.