Brown Opening Statement at Nominations Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – delivered the following opening statement at today’s hearing nominations to the Department of Treasury, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Export-Import Bank.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding today’s hearing on the nominations of Mr. Mitchell Silk, Mr. Brian Montgomery, Mr. David Woll, Mr. John Bobbitt, and Mr. Peter Coniglio. Congratulations to each of you and welcome to your families and guests.

President Trump nominated Mitchell Silk to be Assistant Secretary for International Markets at the Treasury Department. 

His portfolio at Treasury is broad – from energy and infrastructure issues, to trade negotiations with China and global financial risks at the Financial Stability Board. 

China has recognized the global demand for updated infrastructure investments and is making significant investments in infrastructure projects around the world through its Belt and Road Initiative. However, concerns have arisen – about the terms provided; the failure to use local workers; and the quality of the work completed.

The appetite for the Belt and Road Initiative makes clear that we need to increase support for investments abroad in order to provide the world with a market-based alternative to China, one that respects workers and is focused on sustained, local growth and not on the expansion of Chinese influence. 

U.S. leadership in infrastructure development also requires acting to address the threats we face from climate change. If confirmed, Mr. Silk, I hope that you will continue to focus on those efforts.

We will also hear from Mr. Coniglio, the nominee to be Inspector General at the ExIm Bank. A confirmed Inspector General will help ensure transparency and accountability in the Bank’s operations, but Mr. Coniglio’s nomination is not the only ExIm nomination that we need to act on.  

The full Senate needs to vote on the nominations of Paul Shmotolokha and Claudia Slacik whom our Committee previously reported with strong bipartisan support.  We need a full ExIm board and a qualified inspector general to provide oversight and guidance as EXIM approves deals that create jobs in Ohio and around the country.

Finally, three of today’s nominees have been nominated to positions within the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where they are all currently serving.

Mr. Montgomery is currently serving in a confirmed role as Assistant Secretary for Housing-Federal Housing Commissioner and has been nominated to serve as Deputy Secretary.

Mr. Woll has been nominated to be Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development and has experience monitoring compliance with the CDBG-Disaster Relief program, which he would oversee if confirmed.

And Mr. Bobbitt has been nominated to serve as Assistant Secretary for Administration, where he would be responsible for overseeing hiring policies, procurement and operations.

HUD provides housing assistance to 4.7 million low-income families and supports homeless services across the country. It also enforces the Fair Housing Act, insures more than 8.1 million mortgages, and administers billions in assistance to communities hit by natural disasters.

HUD’s policies affect every community—both big and small. A home is a foundation for opportunity, and it’s usually the biggest item in a family’s budget. Hardworking families and the nation’s most vulnerable members rely on these critical programs and protections. 

But President Trump’s administration doesn’t seem to understand that.

At a time when 11 million families spend more than half of their income on housing, we need to be doing more to help families succeed. Yet the Trump Administration has year after year proposed to slash HUD’s budget and eliminate programs like CDBG and HOME that make affordable housing development possible.

This Administration has also released a document questioning long-established best practices to address homelessness, and just last week removed the widely-respected head of the interagency council responsible for coordinating federal agencies’ homelessness response.

HUD wants to undermine the enforcement of the Fair Housing Act based on disparate impact, and to weaken protections for transgender individuals’ who need shelter.

Last week, HUD promoted a political appointee with a history of racist and sexist writings to the second highest position at Ginnie Mae, which guarantees $2.1 trillion in mortgage-backed securities.

And just a few months ago, HUD proposed changes to the FHA program that could make it harder for millions of families to afford to buy a home.  

Each of these actions is deeply troubling on its own. Taken together, it’s pretty clear that not only is President Trump’s administration not doing anything to help families afford a home, but that they’re actively making it harder.

Both Mr. Woll and Mr. Montgomery have played a role in some of these policies and decisions, and I expect to hear more about that in today’s hearing.

These positions play a critical role in many of the economic issues our country faces—from international trade, to sustainable energy, to affordable housing, and I look forward to hearing more from the nominees. Thank you. 

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