The White House said Monday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was “unable to find legal authority for a new, targeted eviction moratorium” and asked that states and local governments put in policies to keep renters in their homes.
Mass evictions could potentially worsen the recent spread of the COVID-19 delta variant as roughly 1.4 million households told the Census Bureau they could “very likely” be evicted from their rentals in the next two months. But the Biden administration said it is unable to take action, though it noted that state-level efforts to stop evictions would spare a third of the country from evictions over the next month.
“Our team is redoubling efforts to identify all available legal authorities to provide necessary protections,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a Monday statement.
The Biden administration also emphasized in the statement that $46.5 billion has been provided to keep renters in their homes, but “too many states and cities have been too slow to act.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday it's “unfathomable” that Americans will be ousted from their homes during the COVID-19 crisis, and backed by the Congressional Black Caucus intensified pressure on the Biden administration to immediately extend the nation's eviction moratorium.
An estimated 3.6 million Americans are at risk of eviction during a COVID-19 surge, some as soon as Monday, after the eviction ban expired over the weekend.
Pelosi and the Democratic leadership has called it a “moral imperative” to reinstate the eviction ban until some $47 billion in already approved housing aid can be distributed to renters and landlords owed back pay. They called on President Joe Biden's administration to extend the moratorium through Oct. 18.
“We all agree that the eviction crisis is an enormous challenge to the conscience of our country,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues. “It is unfathomable that we would not act to prevent people from being evicted.”
Pelosi said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen would hold a virtual briefing Tuesday with lawmakers as they push to more quickly ensure the states distribute the federal aid.
Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio., the chairwoman of the influential Congressional Black Caucus, said the group has been in talks with the White House.
“Thousands of Black families and children could lose the roof over their heads at a time when the deadly pandemic is surging once again,” she said in a statement.
The CDC put the ban in place as part of the COVID-19 response when jobs shifted and many workers lost income. The ban was intended to hold back the spread of the virus among people put out on the streets and into shelters.
Late last week, Biden announced he was allowing the ban to expire, rather than challenge the Supreme Court which signaled it would not allow the moratorium to be extended unless Congress stepped in with legislation.
Democratic lawmakers said they were caught by surprise by Biden's decision on Thursday, days before the moratorium was set to expire, creating frustration and anger and exposing a rare rift with the administration.
Congress was unable to pass legislation swiftly to extend the ban, which expired at midnight Saturday, and the House Democratic leaders have said it was now up to Biden’s administration to act.
Progressive lawmakers, led by Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., and including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have been protesting at the Capitol. The St. Louis-area congresswoman has camped at the building overnight for the past several days.
Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said that Democrats had to “call a spade a spade” and pointed to her own party.
“We cannot in good faith blame the Republican Party when House Democrats have a majority,” the progressive congresswoman said on CNN's "State of the Union."
The White House, which has urged localities and states to tap aid already approved by Congress, had no direct response to the Democrats’ call for action.
The administration and its allies in Congress have focused on the slow pace of pandemic relief already approved by Congress, nearly $47 billion in federal housing aid to the states that has not made it to to renters and landlords owed payments. Biden has called on local governments to “take all possible steps” to disburse the funds immediately.
Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, appeared on “Fox News Sunday” to echo that sentiment. “No landlord should evict without seeking that rental assistance, and states and localities need to get that money out urgently, and they can do that,” Deese said.
Landlords also have argued for speeding up the distribution of rental assistance and opposed another extension of the moratorium.
As the deadline approached Saturday night, Pelosi urged House Democrats to check into how the money already allocated had been distributed so far in their own states and localities.
The White House has maintained that Biden wanted to extend the moratorium but that concerns remained over challenging the court. Doing so could lead to a ruling restricting the administration’s ability to respond to future public health crises.
When the Supreme Court voted 5-4 in late June to allow the broad eviction ban to continue through the end of July, one of those in the majority, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, made clear he would block any additional extensions unless there was “clear and specific congressional authorization.”
While racing to respond to Biden's announcement Thursday that congressional action was needed, Democrats strained to draft a bill and rally the votes. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the chair of the Financial Services Committee, produced a draft of a bill that would require the CDC to continue the ban through Dec. 31. At a hastily arranged hearing Friday morning to consider the bill, she urged her colleagues to act.
In the end, Democratic lawmakers had questions and concerns and could not muster support to extend the ban.
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