Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, said he wants the country’s leaders to set their egos aside and end the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
Carson told NPR, in an interview aired Thursday, that he hopes elected officials “will recognize that this is an easy problem to solve.”
“I mean, just take your ego out of it,” he added. A HUD spokesperson told NPR that the secretary was specifically referring to congressional leaders.
Carson, who has not spoken out since the shutdown began 35 days ago, runs one of the federal agencies directly affected by the closures.
His comments followed remarks from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross shrugging off the shutdown’s impact on 800,000 unpaid federal workers, many of whom are struggling to pay their bills. Ross, whose own net worth is an estimated $700 million, suggested Thursday that workers should take out loans to cover the costs of necessities instead of relying on food pantries.
Two competing proposals aimed at reopening the federal government failed Thursday in the Senate. President Donald Trump has vowed to veto any bill meant to end the shutdown if it does not include $5.7 billion for his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Most of HUD’s employees have been furloughed, and those who were called back on the job without pay are “working around the clock” to make sure people who had been receiving housing assistance don’t face eviction, Carson said. HUD has already said it’s unable to renew some contracts with landlords in a rental assistance program that supports 1.4 million households.
Federal workers in the affected agencies are set to miss their second paycheck on Friday. Carson said those employees are only going to suffer more the longer the shutdown continues.
“We really need to think about them, as opposed to some political victory,” Carson told NPR. “And it does worry me about the future of our country. If we’re going to do everything based on ideology and hatred, I just don’t see how we are going to be successful as a country.”
The HUD secretary joins some former Trump administration officials in the growing call to end the shutdown. John Kelly and four other former secretaries of homeland security told Trump and congressional leaders on Wednesday that they needed to restore funding to that department. Former Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn called for the shutdown’s end from the economic summit in Davos, Switzerland.