Finance

Biden calls on Congress to extend eviction ban with days until expiration

The White House called on Congress to pass an emergency extension of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction ban on Thursday, three days before it expires, insisting the administration does not have the legal power to extend it after a recent Supreme Court ruling.

“Given the recent spread of the delta variant, including among those Americans 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 to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available,” she added.

The Supreme Court last month left intact the CDC’s moratorium on evictions by a 5-4 vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined with the court’s three liberals.

But Kavanaugh also said he agreed with a federal judge’s determination that the CDC had exceeded its authority in enacting the moratorium and argued that it could not be extended again unless by an act of Congress. For that reason, another extension could be reversed by the court if it is challenged by one of the moratorium’s many opponents.

“In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the President calls on Congress to extend the eviction moratorium to protect such vulnerable renters and their families without delay,” Psaki said Thursday.

The CDC issued its unprecedented ban on most evictions in September under former President Trump, and the moratorium has been extended several times under Biden. The CDC most recently extended the ban in June through July 31 for what the agency said would likely be the last time.

Even so, progressive lawmakers and affordable housing advocates have urged Biden to extend the moratorium, with COVID-19 cases driven by the delta variant rising sharply and less than 10 percent of federal rental aid actually in the hands of tenants or landlords.

It is not clear whether Congress can or will be able to meet Biden’s emergency request and pass an extension of the ban before it expires on Aug. 1.

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that the speaker “agrees with President Biden that the moratorium must be extended” and is “exploring all options to do so.”

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) also said that Democrats favor extending the moratorium, “are exploring options to do so immediately, and urge Republicans not to block.”

Pelosi and Schumer could both tee up votes on a basic extension, but both chambers would have to pass the same bill and navigate a potential GOP filibuster in the Senate.

Republican lawmakers have opposed Biden’s previous extensions of the CDC ban and have called on Congress to lay out a more sustainable process to keep renters housed and make landlords whole. 

“This is a full-scale failure by the Biden Administration that Republicans have been trying to address for months,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), the top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee.

“Now, we are three days away from the end of the CDC’s unconstitutional eviction moratorium, and what is President Biden’s solution? Blame the Court and call on Congress to fix it. This is absurd,” he said. “This Administration is squarely to blame for any American family that loses their home due to the gross mismanagement of the Emergency Rental Assistance programs.”

While GOP resistance may not derail an extension in the House, it will take the support of at least 10 Republican senators to push an extension through the Senate.

A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Biden’s last-ditch request comes as his administration scrambles to prevent millions of Americans from being evicted amid a jump in COVID-19 cases. Researchers at the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, estimated 15 million people in 6.5 million households are at risk of eviction when the moratorium expires.

The White House has spent weeks attempting to push more of the $46 billion in federal rental aid out to struggling tenants and the landlords and utilities companies they owe, which could help prevent many tenants from removal. But less than 7 percent of that aid has been disbursed by the state and local groups in charge of reaching eligible recipients, frustrating the White House and members in both parties.

“The President urges states and localities, which long ago received Emergency Rental Assistance – including through the American Rescue Plan – to urgently accelerate their efforts to disburse these funds given the imminent ending of the CDC eviction moratorium,” Psaki said.

“With some cities and states demonstrating their ability to release these funds efficiently to tenants and landlords in need, there can be no excuse for any state or locality not to promptly deploy the resources that Congress appropriated to meet this critical need of so many Americans.”

But former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro said the CDC should extend the ban on its own if only to give tenants a few more days to save themselves from homelessness.

“The WH is right that Congress must act. But these calls should have come weeks ago, not 72 hours before the moratorium expires,” Castro wrote on Twitter. “SCOTUS may strike down a CDC extension, but it’s worth the risk to give tenants time to secure assistance without being kicked out into the street.”

Updated at 2:48 p.m.

Tags Brett Kavanaugh Charles Schumer Coronavirus Delta variant Donald Trump Eviction moratorium Jen Psaki Joe Biden Julian Castro Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Patrick McHenry
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