Because of that warning from Kavanaugh, President Joe Biden has declined to attempt an executive order extending it. “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,” a statement from the White House said. “Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available.”
Instead, he called on Congress to do so, “without delay.” The problem for Congress is that the House was scheduled to leave for August recess on Friday, that legislation had to be thrown together on Thursday at the last minute, and that they’ve got to rush this through even though there’s a very real possibility that Senate Republicans will refuse to pass it anyway, even though six and a half million families could be kicked out of their homes on Saturday. As of Friday morning, it was not clear if the House was going to be able to do it. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Sherrod Brown, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs are working on a bill on their side, but much of that is going to depend on what the House can do.
What’s incredibly frustrating is that Congress had authorized $47 billion in rental assistance to help people pay back rent, but just $3 billion of the first tranche of $25 billion had been distributed through the end of June by states and localities. The money is there in the hands of state and local governments and not being used. “States and cities across the country have shown these programs can work, that they can get money out the door effectively and efficiently,” Biden adviser Gene Sperling told AP.
“The fact that some states and cities are showing they can do this efficiently and effectively makes clear that there is no reason that every state and city shouldn’t be accelerating their funds to landlords and tenants, particularly in light of the end of the CDC eviction moratorium.” There’s no practical reason, but plenty of political ones in Republican states.
That leaves Speaker Nancy Pelosi trying to whip her members into getting it done, calling it a “moral imperative” that they pass the eviction moratorium before they leave. “I am deeply concerned about this, because, sadly, I have seen families evicted from their homes,” Pelosi said in a letter to Democratic colleagues. “It is one of the most heartbreaking situations you can see: cribs and personal belongings put on the street for all to see or take, families suffering the indignity of being forced out of their homes and having to find shelter.”
“Extending the eviction moratorium is a moral imperative—and one that is simple and necessary,” Pelosi told colleagues Thursday night. “We in Congress have the opportunity—and the responsibility—to respect the dignity of those who have suffered so much in terms of their health, financial security and well-being.”
Many of her members, including Rules Committee Chair Jim McGovern are angry that this was dumped on them at the last minute from the White House. At the beginning of Friday’s Rules Committee hearing to clear the legislation for the floor, McGovern griped that “I quite frankly wish [Biden] had asked us sooner.” But he warned that evictions could result in a “supercharged” spread of COVID-19. “We need to get this bill to the president’s desk, and every hour is of the essence,” he said.
With new information from the CDC about just how infectious and how deadly the delta variant of this virus is, Congress should be supercharged to get this done. State and local governments should be supercharged to do their bit and just pay the goddamned back rents.
But a third of the country doesn’t believe that the problem is real, and that minority unfortunately has the power to control pretty much all of government.