A moratorium put into place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last year prevented landlords from evicting tenants who couldn’t afford to pay rent. That ban ended on July 31. Now, Democrats are fighting among themselves, casting blame on each other, while thousands of Americans face being removed from their rented homes.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the moratorium could stay in place until it expired, but Justice Brett Kavanaugh warned the ban could not be extended except by an act of Congress. Just two days before the expiration date, the Biden administration asked Congress to pass an emergency extension.
Playing the Blame Game
When about 20 moderates objected to the idea, Democrats failed to extend the ban. Then the lawmakers broke for recess on July 30, without a vote being taken. Congress is on vacation for seven weeks, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has claimed she will not reconvene the House. However, members are on a 24-hour call-back notice to work on the infrastructure deal if need be.
Surprisingly, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) didn’t point the accusing finger at the GOP. During a CNN interview, the Democrat Darling (well, maybe not so much now) said: “House and House leadership had the opportunity to vote to extend the moratorium, and there were many, and there was, frankly, a handful of conservative Democrats in the House that threatened to get on planes, rather than hold this vote, and we have to really just call a spade a spade.” She continued:
“We cannot in good faith blame the Republican Party when House Democrats have a majority. Now, there is something to be said for the fact that this court order came down on the White House a month ago, and the White House waited until the day before the House adjourned to release a statement asking Congress to extend the moratorium.”
Pelosi blamed President Joe Biden and the White House. The speaker explained on Aug. 1 that:
“Action is needed, and it must come from the Administration. That is why House leadership is calling on the Administration to immediately extend the moratorium. As the CDC doubles down on mask-wearing and vaccination efforts, science and reason demand that they must also extend the moratorium in light of the delta variant.”
The Biden administration argued that it did not have the legal authority to extend the moratorium because of the Supreme Court ruling in June. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki insisted on Aug. 2 that: “To date, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and her team have been unable to find legal authority for a new, targeted eviction moratorium.”
Another Democrat, Representative Jamaal Bowman from New York, tweeted out his frustration, saying: “The White House says it doesn’t have authority to extend the eviction moratorium or cancel student debt. But it hasn’t had a problem conducting airstrikes without authorization from Congress.”
Progressive Democrats in the House of Representatives have been protesting Biden and the White House for the past three nights, camping out on the steps of the Capitol. Representative Cori Bush (D-MO) tweeted: “Since Friday – when some colleagues chose early vacation over voting to prevent evictions – we’ve been at the Capitol. It’s an eviction emergency. Our people need an eviction moratorium. Now.”
Meanwhile, it is estimated that approximately two million households owe back rent to the tune of $15 billion.
Passing the Buck to the State Governors
About $46 billion has been allocated from the American Rescue Plan and the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) to be distributed to governors. AOC said that, of the money approved and set aside by Congress, “only $3 billion has gone out to help renters and small mom-and-pop landlords.”
Psaki, on Aug. 2, said the administration is looking into all legal avenues to help Americans pay their rent, adding that “the President will continue to do everything in his power to help renters from eviction.” She then went on to call out state governors to put eviction moratoria in place and added that the White House is “challenging every landlord to hold off on evictions for the next 30 days.”
Read more from Kelli Ballard.