After a relatively genial confirmation hearing on Wednesday, the Senate Banking Committee deferred until next week a decision on whether to recommend confirmation of Andrew Cuomo as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs.

As one of the youngest cabinet nominees in history, the 39-year-old son of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo would take the helm of an agency strapped with serious financial and management problems.

At Wednesday's hearing, committee members criticized HUD's section 8 multifamily assistance contracts. "The contracts threaten to consume the HUD budget in the next five years if reforms are not made," said Chairman Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y.

HUD's fiscal 1997 budget is $19.5 billion, with $3.6 billion dedicated to the Section 8 program. By fiscal year 2002, the Government Accounting Office expects that figure to increase to $16.4 billion.

The chairman of the HUD subcommittee, Sen. Connie Mack, R-Fla., commented that the last two years at HUD had been a disappointment. He voiced concern that there were too many programs in an agency that is shrinking in size. "I look forward to working with Mr. Cuomo to solve these problems but I'm not too optimistic on the future of HUD," he said.

While committee members agreed that HUD must reform its programs and spending habits, some also praised Mr. Cuomo for his efforts thus far as an assistant secretary at the agency.

Mr. Cuomo repeated his commitment to HUD's continuing role to provide, "a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family."

But he added that the mission "cannot be carried out in the future unless HUD's own house is in good order."

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