(Headline USA) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new eviction moratorium that would last until Oct. 3, as the Biden administration sought to quell intensifying criticism from progressives that it was allowing vulnerable renters to lose their homes during a pandemic.
The ban announced Tuesday could help keep millions in their homes as the coronavirus’s delta variant has spread and states have been slow to release federal rental aid.
It would temporarily halt evictions in counties with “substantial and high levels” of virus transmissions and would cover areas where 90% of the U.S. population lives.
The announcement was a reversal for the Biden administration, which allowed an earlier moratorium to lapse over the weekend after saying a Supreme Court ruling prevented an extension. That ripped open a dramatic split between the White House and progressive Democrats who insisted the administration do more to prevent some 3.6 million Americans from losing their homes during the COVID-19 crisis.
The court opined 5-4 in June that the moratorium was unconstitutional, but Justice Brett Kavanaugh — ignoring his judicial responsibilities — declined to end the policy because it was due to expire in August anyway. Constitutional lawyer Josh Blackman wrote last month:
Justice Kavanaugh issued a clear ultimatum to the Biden Administration: if you extend the moratorium one more time, I’ll flip my vote. Congressional authorization is not needed now. But come August 1, I’ll boof up your executive action. In effect, Justice Kavanaugh is telling Biden to go to Congress, or throw 6 million people on the street.
Speaking at the White House on Tuesday, Biden said he pushed the CDC to again consider its options. But he still seemed hesitant as to whether the new moratorium could withstand lawsuits about its constitutionality, saying he has sought the opinions of experts as to whether the Supreme Court would approve the measure.
“The bulk of the constitutional scholarship says that it’s not likely to pass constitutional muster,” Biden said. “But there are several key scholars who think that it may and it’s worth the effort.”
The president added that the moratorium — even if it gets challenged in court — “will probably give some additional time” for states and city to release billions of dollars in federal relief to renters.
Politically, the extension could help heal a rift with liberal Democratic lawmakers who were calling on the president to take executive action to keep renters in their homes. The administration had spent the past several days scrambling to reassure Democrats and the country that it could find a way to limit the damage from potential evictions through the use of federal aid.
But pressure mounted as key lawmakers said it was not enough.
Top Democratic leaders joined Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., who has been camped outside the U.S. Capitol for several days. The freshman congresswoman once lived in her car as a young mother and pointed to that experience to urge the White House to prevent widespread evictions.
As she wiped her eyes before a crowd at the Capitol after the CDC’s announcement, Bush said she was shedding “joyful tears.”
“My God, I don’t believe we did this,” she said. “We just did the work, just by loving folks to keep millions in their homes.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it was a day of “extraordinary relief.”
“The imminent fear of eviction and being put out on the street has been lifted for countless families across America. Help is Here!” Pelosi said in a statement.
Administration officials had previously said a Supreme Court ruling stopped them from setting up a new moratorium without congressional backing.
But on Tuesday, the CDC cited the slow pace of state and local governments disbursing housing aid as justification for the new moratorium.
Aside from the moratorium, Biden has insisted that federal money is available — some $47 billion previously approved during the pandemic — that needs to get out the door to help renters and landlords.
“The money is there,” Biden said.
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.