WASHINGTON – Two days after a federal moratorium on evictions expired, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged the White House to extend it, even as the Biden administration has insisted that only Congress has the power to keep it in place.
The Democratic-controlled House adjourned for recess last week without taking action on a bill that would have renewed it.
The White House says only Congress can extend the evictions freeze after the Supreme Court ruled in June that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention overstepped its authority when it created the policy.
The back and forth come as the inaction has created a backlash among progressive Democrats who have blamed their party’s leadership in Congress and President Joe Biden for letting the moratorium expire.
Rep. Cori Bush, D-Missouri, and several other progressive lawmakers have camped outside on the U.S. Capitol steps since Friday to call for the House to reconvene to take action.
Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders said in a joint statement Sunday night that action was needed and “it must come from the administration.”
“That is why House leadership is calling on the administration to immediately extend the moratorium,” the Democratic leaders said.
The moratorium, put in place during the pandemic, was credited with keeping more than 2 million renters in their homes. Two days before it ended – and just one day before the House adjourned – the White House made its first public appeal for Congress to take action to extend the policy.
Pelosi and the House Democratic leaders said the virus remains a threat, calling it a “moral imperative” to keep people from losing their homes. But they said “it is clear” the evenly divided Senate won’t extend the eviction moratorium, making any effort from the House insufficient, and putting the onus on the Biden administration.
“As we urge the White House to act, please note that Congress will work to address any vulnerability to the CDC identified by the courts,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to House Democrats on Monday.
In a June 29 ruling, a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court allowed the federal eviction moratorium to remain in place through the end of July. But Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh said he provided the fifth vote only because the freeze was about to expire on its own and said any further extension would require congressional authorization.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki last Thursday said that given the spread of the Covid delta variant the president “would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC” to further extend the eviction moratorium.
“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available,” Psaki said, before calling on Congress to extend the eviction moratorium “without delay.”
Biden and Democrats have called attention to $46.5 billion approved by Congress this year for emergency rental assistance that states and have been slow to spend. Biden urged states and cities Friday still sitting on the aid to “take all possible steps to immediately disburse these funds.”
Staff writer John Fritze contributed to this report. Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.