Ben Carson did not back down from his criticism of President Obama's landmark fair housing rule in his confirmation hearings Thursday, instead casting it as "central dictation of people's lives."
The former neurosurgeon, President-elect Trump's pick to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, called the 2015 rule a "cookie cutter" federal regulation that would intrude on local decision-making.
"We have people sitting around [desks] in Washington, D.C., deciding how things should be done, telling mayors and commissioners you need to build this place right here and put these kinds of people" in it, Carson said of the rule, which requires localities that receive HUD funds to develop plans for reducing racial and other inequalities or risk losing funds.
"I don't have any problem whatsoever with affirmative action or at least, you know, integration," Carson said, in response to critical questioning from Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. "I do have a problem with people on high dictating it without when they don't know what's going on in the area."
A provision of the 1968 Civil Rights Act requires entities that receive HUD funds to "affirmatively further" fair housing, and Carson said he would follow that law. But he was skeptical of the Obama administration's rule for enforcing it.
Questions from Democrats about the rule were among the first skeptical questions for Carson because, while his record on housing issues was otherwise thin before Thursday's hearing, he published an op-ed in 2015 that indicated hostility to the Obama administration effort.
Democrats also asked about his attitude toward nondiscrimination laws, which Carson had indicated skepticism of in other contexts. He said Thursday that he would enforce federal law for HUD shelter programs as it concerns protected groups such as gay, lesbian and transgender people. Nevertheless, he said, "no one gets extra rights," meaning that "you don't get to redefine everything for everyone else."