President Joe Biden has been under increased pressure from the left after a federal moratorium on evictions expired last month.
After initially appearing to acknowledge that such a move would likely be unconstitutional, however, he gave into the partisan demands and enacted the latest round of protections against evictions — while consigning many landlords to conitnue providing housing without compensation.
“Not likely to pass constitutional muster”
The reversal followed a weekend of protests and lobbying from progressive Democrats including Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), who urged the executive branch to extend the pandemic-era provision.
Biden asked Congress to act on the matter just a few days before the moratorium was set to expire. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) left the ball in Biden’s court and protections officially ended for renters nationwide on Saturday.
The president’s inaction angered Bush and others on the left, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who camped out on the Capitol steps in protest.
At first, Biden signaled that he would defer to a Supreme Court ruling that Congress must approve any such moratorium on evictions. By Tuesday, however, he said he was willing to act unilaterally where feasible.
“The bulk of the constitutional scholarship says that it’s not likely to pass constitutional muster,” the president conceded. “But there are several key scholars who think that it may and it’s worth the effort.”
“This is why this happened”
As for the specific moratorium being issued, it is set to last until Oct. 3 and applies to renters in counties considered to have high COVID-19 transmission as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That designation applies to roughly 80% of the nation’s counties.
Bush was among those who rushed to praise Biden for reconsidering his position.
“This is why this happened,” she declared. “Being unapologetic. Being unafraid.”
Of course, National Apartment Association President Bob Pinnegar had a different take on the measure, asserting that the moratorium “forces housing providers to deliver a costly service without compensation and saddles renters with insurmountable debt.”
Biden seemed to welcome a legal battle, which he suggested would buy some time while as-yet undispersed federal rental assistance funds are distributed to communities across the country.