The Senate Banking Committee advanced the nomination of Marcia L. Fudge to run the Housing and Urban Development Department with a 17-7 vote Thursday.
Fudge, a Democratic House member from Ohio, will move to the floor backed by the committee’s 12 Democrats and five Republicans. The panel also voted 24-0 to report out the nomination of Cecilia Rouse to head the Council of Economic Advisors.
Chairman Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Fudge and Rouse are clearly good candidates for the entities they have been nominated to lead.
“Their passion to serve was obvious. Their knowledge and their commitment to the people who make this country work was clear,” Brown said.
During her Jan. 28 confirmation hearing, Fudge faced scrutiny from Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania for what he called personal potshots in her criticism of Senate Republicans’ confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court a week before the November election. Congressional Democrats argued that the Senate was rushing to add a conservative justice to avoid the possibility of Democrat Joe Biden naming someone to the court.
Fudge also drew GOP questions about her comments that Republicans do not care about people of color. She qualified the statement by saying she questioned whether some and not all Republicans care for people of color.
Toomey, who became the panel's ranking member after the Senate reorganization agreement, raised those points again at the Thursday business meeting and said that Fudge has no background in housing policy and has not been active in the area as a mayor or a member of Congress.
He also took issue with Fudge’s response to a question about targeting HUD programs to better reach more low-income people. He said Fudge said more resources were needed.
Toomey also was dissatisfied with a response on whether a taxpayer bailout of the Federal Housing Administration would be a failure. He said he worried that Fudge would not make changes he said are needed to improve HUD's functioning.
But Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said he had spoken to Fudge about her comments and urged her to keep an open door to committee Republicans. Based on his conversations with Fudge, Scott said he would vote for her.
“I find her to be a person who is quite intelligent, motivated and tenacious,” Scott said.
Brown said he had also urged Fudge to be open to Republicans.
Portman said Fudge would focus on the affordable housing crisis, which predated the COVID-19 outbreak, and the eviction crisis that the pandemic has exacerbated.
Brown said Fudge is the woman to take on issues like a long-standing shortage of affordable housing and millions of housing units with health-threatening lead paint.
“She brings to the job the unique and critical experience of serving as mayor for the kind of community that is either overlooked or outright preyed upon by Wall Street and big investors,” Brown said.
Economic adviser Rouse
At that January hearing, Toomey praised Rouse, who if confirmed would become the first African American woman to lead the economic council. He said Rouse, a labor economist who served on the economic council during the Obama administration, was very well qualified.
On Thursday, Toomey said Rouse is “well qualified to serve as CEA chair based in part on her service as a CEA member in the Obama administration and her distinguished career as an economist at Princeton. I have no doubt that I am going to disagree with Dean Rouse on policy matters far more often than I will agree with her.“
However, Toomey said that Rouse had a track record of listening to people of different views and was more in line with Biden’s stated goal of bipartisanship.