Biden, Pelosi buck-passing on eviction moratorium as Congress readies recess

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Joe Biden wants Congress to amend its own statute. Nancy Pelosi wants to outsource the job to the CDC. The sudden push to deal with the COVID-19 eviction moratorium might be taking members of Congress by surprise, but the lack of preparation and leadership on it is anything but surprising.

By the way, it expires tomorrow:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team are scrambling to nail down the votes for an eleventh-hour push to extend the federal eviction moratorium — likely to be the House’s final task before the departing for its lengthy August recess.

The Democrats’ push came as a surprise to many in the caucus, and some in leadership, after a last-minute demand from the White House that arrived just before the national halt on evictions was set to expire Saturday. Without the moratorium, millions of families could be at risk of homelessness during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t see how we go home without” extending the moratorium, Pelosi told Democrats on a private call Friday morning.

Nothing like waiting until the last minute. It’s almost literally that, and yet rather than deal with this deadline, Democratic leadership have spent every moment of the day for weeks trying to push through an infrastructure package that has no real immediate urgency. Well, that’s not entirely true. Their incumbents need the pork to arrive before the midterm cycle.

So far, Pelosi isn’t even moving the needle in her own caucus, some of whom wonder why they’d take a risky vote for something that has zero chance in the Senate:

But Pelosi and leadership team are now in their second day of aggressive whipping on the moratorium extension, struggling to win over a group of entrenched holdouts that includes moderates who say the extension shouldn’t go beyond Sept. 30. And several Democrats across the caucus argue there’s little point in forcing a vote when the Senate is unlikely to be able to win 10 Republican votes for the measure.

And that’s why Pelosi wants to kick this back to Biden and the White House:

The Speaker said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has instituted a ban on evictions through the end of Saturday, should extend the deadline further, giving House Democrats more time to codify the extension in legislation.

“I think this is something that we’ll work out. It isn’t about any more money – the money is there, resting in localities and governors’ offices across the country,” Pelosi said Friday morning during a press briefing in the Capitol. “So we’d like the CDC to expand the moratorium. That’s where it can be done.” …

She also argued that the CDC does have the authority to extend the moratorium on its own – Supreme Court ruling or none.

“I think the CDC can,” she said.

No, they most certainly cannot. The Supreme Court gave the CDC a temporary pass on ordering the emergency measure last month, but only until tomorrow. At that point, the court ruled, Congress had to take charge and amend its own statute allowing the moratorium. Last week, the 6th Circuit unanimously contradicted that temporary reprieve in another case, negating the CDC’s order and ruling that only Congress had the authority to craft such a policy.

Either way, it ends by tomorrow unless Congress can act. They’ve had a month or more to deal with this situation, only to ignore it and the potential impact it will have on more than 11 million Americans. It’s yet another example of the irresponsible leadership on Capitol Hill and its repeated punts to the executive branch, which has led to what some call the imperial presidency. When Pelosi fails — and she’s almost already there — get ready for more Democrats to call on Biden to assume authority he does not have just to pull their chestnuts out of the fire. And that will be to the detriment of all, because this ad hoc treatment of renters and landlords is far more destructive than a planned policy, and especially for a well-considered exit ramp for both renters and landlords alike.

Update: The Supreme Court set this deadline on June 29. This is all the effort that leadership on Capitol Hill put into the issue:

Pathetic.