October 4, 2023

American White House rescue plan coordinator Gene Sperling speaks about the eviction moratorium at a press conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on August 2, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – A senior White House adviser defended President Joe Biden’s decision not to extend the federal Covid-19 eviction moratorium on Monday, two days after the nearly year-long nationwide halt on rental evictions.

“Unfortunately, on June 29, the Supreme Court declared that the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] could not grant such an extension without clear and specific approval from Congress, “said economist Gene Sperling, who leads the White House’s efforts to distribute Covid aid.

That approval had not been given, he said, and as a result, “the CDC director and her team could not find legal authority” to extend the moratorium.

Sperling then outlined new measures Biden had approved, which mainly consisted of instructing authorities to keep trying to prevent evictions.

The White House’s argument that there was no legal authority to extend the eviction ban did not go down well with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which has been under pressure for weeks from both Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California continues this to extend the moratorium by all means necessary.

“This court order was passed on the White House a month ago, and the White House waited until the day before the House adjourned to issue a statement asking Congress to extend the moratorium,” the progressive said Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, NY Democratic MP on Sunday on CNN.

It’s more complicated, however. The White House has spent the past few weeks figuring out ways to circumvent the High Court’s policy while working to improve sluggish federal and state rental assistance programs that have been bogged down by red tape.

Late last week it became clear that there was no legal authority under which the CDC could extend the ban, and the White House announced that Biden would phase it out.

“President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to extend this eviction moratorium further,” the White House said in a statement last Thursday. “Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made it clear that this is no longer an option.”

Biden then called on “Congress to immediately extend the eviction moratorium to protect such vulnerable tenants and their families.”

Biden’s statement took some Democrats by surprise, and since the house was due to be adjourned the next day for an almost two-month hiatus, party leaders were trying to decide what steps to take.

But it quickly became clear that Pelosi lacked the votes within their own faction to extend the ban.

This was partly because members of the Democratic House knew that even if they voted for an extension, it would be a DOA in the Senate, where Democrats only have a majority vote. Republicans are generally against extending the ban.

Over the weekend, the Pelosi and Democratic leaders tossed the ball back into Biden’s pitch.

“Action is needed and it must come from the government,” Pelosi said in a statement signed by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Whip James Clyburn, DS.C. and Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark, D-Mass.

At the White House briefing on Monday, Sperling said slightly less than 2 million tenants were in immediate danger of eviction.

But that estimate is significantly lower than that of the roughly 3.6 million Americans in early July who said they would be displaced in the next two months, according to the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.

Sperling also noted that several states have introduced their own eviction moratoriums, which remain in place despite the end of the state moratorium.

He urged states to use the $ 45 billion in Covid rental assistance funds approved by Congress this spring, of which only about $ 3 billion has been used so far.

“If states and local governments use these vast resources that this Congress has carefully given them, there is every reason to believe that they could have a significant impact on mitigating these evictions,” he said.

The Biden government will not give up looking for ways to help tenants, he added. “We will look for every bit of authority, conviction, or guidance that we can give.”