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Elizabeth Warren defends Ben Carson vote against liberal backlash

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., found herself in an unusual position after voting to support retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson’s nomination to President Trump’s cabinet — defending herself to aggrieved progressives.

On Wednesday evening, after considerable pushback from supporters, Warren wrote on Facebook that she thinks backing Carson was a reasonable decision despite her “serious, deep, profound concerns” about Carson’s inexperience and the “outrageous things” he said as a Republican presidential candidate.

Warren explained that she sent Carson a nine-page letter with detailed questions on a host of issues she considers central for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), including providing housing assistance, fighting homelessness, preparing for natural disasters, and protecting the LGBT community.

“Dr. Carson’s answers weren’t perfect. But at his hearing, he committed to track and report on conflicts of interest at the agency. In his written responses to me, he made good, detailed promises, on everything from protecting anti-homelessness programs to enforcing fair housing laws,” Warren wrote. “Promises that — if they’re honored — would help a lot of working families.”

The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee unanimously approved Carson’s bid to lead HUD on Tuesday. His nomination now moves to the GOP-controlled Senate floor for official confirmation.

Ben Carson and Senator Elizabeth Warren
Housing and Urban Development secretary-designate Ben Carson and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. (Photos: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP, Natasha Moustache/WireImage/Getty Images)

Warren said she’s not sure Carson can be trusted to keep his promises and that people should be skeptical. However, she continued, Carson made the promises in writing — giving liberals a “toehold on accountability.” She fears that if Trump were to select a second choice, he or she might not even commit to the various goals she laid out, let alone see them through.

“If Dr. Carson doesn’t follow through on his commitments, I will be the very first person he hears from — loudly and clearly and frequently,” she said. “I didn’t hesitate to criticize past HUD secretaries when they fell short, and I won’t hesitate with Dr. Carson — not for one minute.”

Warren acknowledged that other people did not agree with her decision to approve Carson and were not shy about letting her know. Though she thanked critics for speaking out, she pointed out that there are many nominees to consider and many places where liberals need to “turn up the heat under the Senate Republicans.”

She indicated that Democrats might want to save their political capital for opposing Trump’s other choices: Betsy DeVos for education secretary, Rex Tillerson for secretary of state, Steven Mnuchin for secretary of the treasury, Tom Price for secretary of health and human services, Scott Pruitt for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and Andrew Puzder for secretary of labor.

“Either way, we need all of us in this fight. Your voices are powerfully important, and I hope you’ll keep speaking up for what you believe in,” she said.

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