Rep. Katie Porter recounts her frustration at having to explain housing policy to onetime HUD secretary Ben Carson during a congressional hearing: ‘I was tutoring a neurosurgeon’

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Rep. Katie Porter of California.

Rep. Katie Porter detailed an odd 2019 exchange she had with Ben Carson over housing policy.
Carson was unaware of the term REO and thought she said Oreo, as in the cookie sandwich.
Porter recounted the incident in her new book, “I Swear: Politics Is Messier Than My Minivan.”

In May 2019, an exchange between Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of California and then-Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson during a House Financial Services Committee hearing quickly went viral.

Carson — a world-renowned pediatric surgeon who ran for president in 2016 and was later tapped by then-President Donald Trump to lead HUD despite little experience with housing policy — was being questioned by Porter about the term REO, or real estate-owned, a relatively common term used to describe government-owned foreclosed properties.

But Carson thought she was talking about a cookie — an Oreo to be specific. 

Porter, now a third-term congresswoman who is running for a Senate seat in California in a high-profile contest to succeed Dianne Feinstein next year, recounted the incredible exchange in her newly-released book, “I Swear: Politics Is Messier Than My Minivan.”

“I asked him about how FHA punished mortgage companies for not foreclosing fast enough, rather than giving time to assist borrowers. He said he would get back to me on that. I asked him why FHA was lousy at serving mortgages. He would look it up and fin out what was going on,” she wrote.

“I asked him about the disparity in REO rates between FHA and other kinds of mortgages. This time there was no response,” she continued. “I studied his expression, which had turned into a bit of a frown. When a student gets lost you back up and try again.”

But Carson at the outset wasn’t familiar with the term, nor was he familiar with several other issues that fell under his purview at HUD.

Porter detailed how she asked Carson if he knew the meaning of an REO during the hearing. She would soon get her answer.

“Secretary Ben Carson, the man in charge of housing for our nation, asked me if I meant ‘Oreo.’ I was talking bout REO properties, bank assets called ‘real estate owned.’ He was asking me about a chocolate sandwich cookie,” she wrote.

“‘Not an Oreo, an REO.’ I spelled it out even more slowly. ‘R-E-O,” she continued.

Carson incorrectly guessed that the ‘O’ meant organization, but Porter expressed some frustration over the fact that she had to query the top department official regarding the term.

“After years of studying the law and fighting for consumers, I was a member of Congress on the Financial Services Committee. And instead of getting better policies, I was tutoring a neurosurgeon,” she wrote.

“As a congressmember, I’m supposed to be asking the questions, not giving the answers,” she added.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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