Pelosi calls on CDC to extend eviction moratorium unilaterally

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks to the family of Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Texas) before a ceremonial swearing in for press on Friday, July 30, 2021 after being sworn in at the House Chamber.
Greg Nash

As House Democratic leaders struggle to find enough party support to extend an eviction moratorium, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is advocating a temporary fix, urging the Biden administration to act unilaterally to help the nation’s most vulnerable renters.

The Speaker said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has instituted a ban on evictions through the end of Saturday, should extend the deadline further, giving House Democrats more time to codify the extension in legislation.

“I think this is something that we’ll work out. It isn’t about any more money — the money is there, resting in localities and governors’ offices across the country,” Pelosi said Friday morning during a press briefing in the Capitol. “So we’d like the CDC to expand the moratorium. That’s where it can be done.”

The remarks come as Pelosi and other Democratic leaders are scrambling to locate the votes to extend the eviction moratorium legislatively — a request that President Biden made only Thursday.

The Rules Committee considered the topic on Friday morning, debating a proposal sponsored by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), head of the Financial Services Committee, which initially would have extended the moratorium through the end of the year.

But a number of moderate Democrats are opposed to the bill — one put the number of Democratic opponents at 14 — citing the length of the extension. That opposition led Democratic leaders to shrink the window of the benefit to expire on Oct. 18, although it remains unclear if that concession is enough to win the support of the centrist holdouts.

“It is our hope that we could pass a bill extending the eviction moratorium to that date immediately,” Pelosi wrote to Democrats Friday afternoon. 

Meanwhile, Democrats of all stripes are grumbling that Biden waited until Thursday — just two days before the House is scheduled to leave Washington for a long summer vacation — to request that Congress take up the issue.

“I quite frankly wish he had asked us sooner,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), chairman of the Rules panel, during a Friday morning hearing.

Biden’s request came weeks after the Supreme Court, on June 29, had warned that the CDC lacks the authority to extend the moratorium beyond July 31 without congressional action.

Pelosi, however, has a different view. Calling the extension “an imperative,” she said the House will eventually work out its differences and pass the Waters bill, which extends the moratorium through the end of the year.

“We are not going away from this issue, whether it’s now or shortly thereafter,” she said. “We’re going to have to find a solution.”

In the meantime, however, she’s calling on the nation’s governors to use billions of dollars Congress has already allocated to help renters — she put the figure at $46 billion in unspent assistance.

“The fact is, almost $50 billion was allocated — $46 billion. Less than 10 percent of that has been spent, around $3 billion,” she said. “Why should the renters be punished for the fact that the system did not put money in their pockets to pay the rent to the landlords?

She also argued that the CDC does have the authority to extend the moratorium on its own — Supreme Court ruling or none.

“I think the CDC can,” she said.

Scott Wong and Sylvan Lane contributed.

Updated 2:31 p.m.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Eviction moratorium Joe Biden Maxine Waters Nancy Pelosi

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