President Joe Biden’s administration is imposing a partial eviction moratorium through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a move that might satisfy House Democrats, but could fly in the face of the U.S. Supreme Court.
He said Tuesday it was “not likely to pass constitutional muster.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki appeared to walk back the remark the next day, saying he was “comfortable” with the “legal justification” of the move.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki says President Joe Biden is “comfortable and confident in the legal justification” of yesterday’s newly-issued eviction moratorium– previously, SCOTUS had said extending the original moratorium would require Congressional approval. pic.twitter.com/AKNbDNK1aE
— DJ Judd (@DJJudd) August 4, 2021
The White House has gone back and forth with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for more than a week over whose responsibility it is to extend the national ban on evictions that expired July 31. While the Biden administration previously extended the moratorium for an additional month in June, the U.S. Supreme Court soon stepped in and said CDC did not have the authority to extend it further. It is unclear whether the new, less expansive ban will pass constitutional muster. (RELATED: CDC Extends Trump Admin’s Coronavirus Eviction Moratorium, Despite 2 Judges Ruling It Unconstitutional)
“This moratorium is the right thing to do to keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings where COVID-19 spreads,” Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director said. “Such mass evictions and the attendant public health consequences would be very difficult to reverse.”
— Michael D. Shear (@shearm) August 3, 2021
The Supreme Court heard a case regarding the legality of the CDC’s moratorium extension in June. While it allowed the extension to continue through July 31, it ruled that the CDC could not further extend the ban without “clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation).” (RELATED: Psaki Dodges On Whether Unemployment Benefits Are Slowing COVID Recovery)
Pelosi and Democrats nevertheless demanded that the Biden administration extend the moratorium regardless of the SCOTUS ruling, and the White House resisted the pressure for days. (RELTED: Here’s Why ‘The Squad’ Is Camping Out On The Steps Of Capitol Hill)
I urge the Biden Administration to extend the CDC’s eviction moratorium. It is reckless not to extend the deadline when rental assistance funds have not gone out fast enough to protect people. Eviction filings have already spiked in anticipation of the moratorium being lifted.
— Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@RepAOC) July 23, 2021
“Given the recent spread of the Delta variant, including among those American’s both most likely to face evictions and lacking vaccinations, President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium,” Psaki said July 29. “Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available.”
The new moratorium focuses on areas with “heightened levels of community transmission” of COVID-19 and the delta variant, according to the CDC order. The previous moratorium had no such limits, and the new restrictions are no doubt an attempt to avoid another strike-down from the Supreme Court. (RELATED: ‘I Think He Should’: Biden Calls On Cuomo To Resign Following Investigation)
Should the new order fail in courts, however, the White House is likely to return to the arguments it was making earlier this week. Psaki argued as late as Tuesday afternoon that state governments should take up the mantle and enact eviction moratoriums themselves, given that the relevant funding is still available. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed the argument as well, saying he doesn’t believe action is necessary on the federal level. (RELATED: Top Republican Demands Janet Yellen Testifies About $44 Billion In Unused COVID Funds)
McConnell on eviction moratorium:
“It looks like the money is still there” whether at federal or state level. He says he doesn’t think it requires legislation to get the $$ out
— Alayna Treene (@alaynatreene) August 3, 2021
Democrats in Congress had attempted to pass a moratorium extension via unanimous consent Friday, but the effort fell to Republican opposition.
“We are proud and pleased that, overwhelmingly, House Democrats have understood the hardship caused by rental evictions and support extending the eviction moratorium to October 18, 2021,” Pelosi and other Democratic leaders said in a statement at the time. “Unfortunately, not a single Republican would support this measure.”