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May 22, 2019

MassLive: Rep. Ayanna Pressley demands answers about ‘substandard’ public housing from HUD Secretary Ben Carson

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley demanded answers from HUD Secretary Ben Carson about what she called his department’s inability to protect the health and well-being of Americans living in public housing.

Pressley, a Democrat from Boston, told Carson, who heads the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, she had been waiting to question him for “a long time.” Carson appeared before House Financial Services Committee Tuesday.

“But the residents of my district have been waiting far longer for your agency to do its job,” Pressley said. “This matter is very, very personal. Let me be clear: housing is a fundamental human right and the displacement of families should be regarded as the public health crisis that it is.”

Pressley asked Carson to answer a few “yes or no” questions, but he did not provide answers.

She began: “Is stable and safe housing a social determinant of health?”

Carson responded, “There is no question that its an important part…”

Pressley cut him off.

“Yes or no,” said Pressley. “If left unaddressed, do you believe the substandard public housing conditions pose a risk to tenants’ physical, mental and emotional health?”

Carson responded: “You already know the answer.” She asked again for a “yes” or “no” response and Carson repeated: “You know the answer.”

Carson said it seemed as though Pressley did not listen to his previous responses in the hearing and complained about her questions.

“Yes or no, can you ask me some questions yourself and stop reading this silly stuff?” Carson said.

Pressley responded: “You don’t get to dictate what my line of questioning is. Reclaiming my time. You’re a very smart man so you understand the question, please answer it. Yes. Or no.”

Carson said, again, “you know the answer.” Pressley responded: “I know the answer, do you know the answer? Yes or no?”

Then Carson said he wanted to reclaim his time – a phrase reserved for members of the U.S. House of Representatives to take the floor back from another person who is speaking during the meeting.

When told he was not allowed to that, Carson chuckled and said: “Oh.”

Carson said it would be “very nice” if Pressley stopped “acting out.”