WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s pick to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development faced questions from Republicans about her past comments critical of their party during her confirmation hearing Thursday.
U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, pledged to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee that if confirmed, she will work across the aisle to alleviate the country’s housing crisis and help those facing eviction and foreclosure to “come back from the edge.”
But Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., the top GOP lawmaker on that panel, questioned her ability to work in a bipartisan fashion, quoting a fiery speech that Fudge made on the House floor following the death of former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
In that September 2020 speech, Fudge blasted Republican lawmakers who were working to quickly replace Ginsburg, saying they “have no decency. They have no honor. They have no integrity. … They are a disgrace to this nation.” Senate Republicans at the time were racing to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett as Ginsbug’s successor.
Toomey also cited a separate comment by Fudge, who is Black, that Republicans don’t care about people of color.
“It’s one thing to have strongly held views and disagreement,” Toomey said. “But I’m troubled by this and several other statements because, in my mind, they raise questions about your willingness and ability to work with Republicans.”
Fudge defended her ability to work in a bipartisan way, saying that while her tone is not always “pitch perfect,” her record in public office shows that she has “the ability and the capacity to work with Republicans, and I intend to do just that.”
Both senators from Ohio praised her track record.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, described her as someone with “a substantial and impressive work ethic,” who has tackled housing issues “across party lines, including even with your Republican senator now and again.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Banking panel and incoming chairman, and a constituent in Fudge’s House district, called her a “champion of Cleveland” who is prepared to take the reins of a federal agency tackling homelessness and the growing challenge of unaffordable housing.
Brown also pushed back at Republicans who repeatedly seized on Fudge’s comments about the GOP.
“It’s pretty tough to take a lecture on political speech from members of a party whose leader just three weeks ago literally incited a violent insurrection with his words,” Brown said.
Before her election to Congress in 2008, Fudge worked in the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office and was the first Black and first female mayor of Warrensville Heights, a Cleveland suburb.
Fudge lobbied Biden hard to become his Agriculture secretary, a post for which Iowa’s Tom Vilsack was once again tapped after serving in the same job in the Obama administration.
During Thursday’s hearing, Fudge told senators that the nation’s housing issues are “real, varied and touch all of us,” and that she would work to advance policies that can be adapted to issues that “do not fit into a cookie-cutter mold.”
“On any given day, we have 8 million people who need housing,” Fudge said. “So not only do we need to protect those who are currently in housing, but we need to ensure that those who are without housing get it.”
That challenge has grown greater during the pandemic, she said, adding that nearly 3 million homeowners are currently in forbearance, and another 800,000 are delinquent.