Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson is not often one to get worked up, but he did flash a degree of tempered frustration at political leaders in Washington, D.C. over the longest government shutdown in American history in a recent interview, right before the White House and congressional leaders agreed to temporarily reopen the government.
Carson, who has been largely quiet since the shutdown began in late December, told NPR’s Brakkton Booker that government officials at the forefront of the gridlock need to put the needs of the affected above any possible political points they can score.
“We can continue to hope that our leaders will recognize that this is an easy problem to solve,” Carson said. “I mean, just take your ego out of it.”
In a clarifying statement from HUD to NPR, the department wanted to assure people that Carson was not directing his criticism at the president, but instead to congressional leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
“They need to send the President an acceptable bill so that important government functions can continue,” the written statement read in part.
While reverse mortgage originators related to RMD that their operations ran largely uninhibited during the shutdown, the same could not be said of HUD. As one of the affected federal agencies, new Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) endorsements were halted entirely four days after the shutdown began, while customer service remained available with limited staff assistance. Online portals for HUD were not updated during the duration of the shutdown.
The shutdown also critically affected operations related to forward mortgages and housing assistance programs for lower-income individuals.
Carson himself also emphasized that even though there are programs that exist to help affected federal workers make ends meet, that should not deter politicians from thinking about them as they worked to put an end to the shutdown.
“These federal workers, I mean, yes I know we’re going to give them back pay, but that doesn’t take care of the interest if they borrow money,” Carson said.
The Secretary’s comments were followed soon after by an agreement announced on Friday, reached between the White House and congressional leaders to reopen shuttered government operations temporarily for three weeks while the president continues to try and secure roughly $5.7 billion to fund a wall or other barrier to be placed on the southern U.S. border.