"This is a mess": White House, Dems feud expands over eviction-moratorium failure

AP Photo/Salvador Melendez

The White House points its finger at Nancy Pelosi. Nancy Pelosi points it right back to the Biden administration. Progressives blame the CDC. The one point on which everyone agrees is that the collapse of the eviction moratorium is “a mess,” as CBS reporter Weijia Jang notes in this update:

Not only are Democrats in disarray over this flop, the infighting between their caucuses has broken out into the open. Progressives lashed out at Joe Biden all day yesterday for not ordering the CDC to take steps that the Supreme Court had already precluded:

Tensions escalated sharply Monday between liberal Democrats and President Biden, as disputes over the end of an eviction moratorium and the fate of the Democrats’ social agenda threatened to upend the Democrats’ delicate center-left alliance.

Anger among left-leaning lawmakers centered on Biden’s decision not to extend a directive designed to keep people from losing their housing during the pandemic. White House officials said that despite Biden’s appeals to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to consider extending the order over the weekend, the agency found no legal authority to do so.

That, however, did not satisfy liberal lawmakers, who were fuming that the White House had not prevented the moratorium from expiring Saturday in the first place. They called on Biden to unilaterally extend the federal protections, which they said would buy Congress time to find a longer-term solution, even if that meant inviting a legal challenge. …

In a hastily called, expletive-laden videoconference call of the caucus’s executive board Sunday that included nearly two dozen lawmakers, members railed against the White House and House Democratic leaders over the eviction strategy, according to several Democrats with knowledge of the discussion.

This is an utterly nonsensical argument. Any such move would be immediately enjoined by a court based on the Supreme Court’s earlier decision, as well as a separate appellate ruling that immediately revoked the CDC’s order. It might buy a week or two at most.

What would Democratic lawmakers do with a week or two? They didn’t do squat when they had thirty-two days to deal with the Supreme Court’s deadline on the eviction moratorium. Nancy Pelosi and the progressives waited until 36 hours before the expiration to even start working on the issue, and in the end didn’t even leave themselves enough time to put a proposal on the floor with any rational hope of passage. They tried to lay off their failure instead by pushing out a makeshift proposal and asking for unanimous consent for passage, knowing full well that they didn’t have a prayer of getting it. It’s unclear whether they even bothered to brief House Republicans on their plans before heading out for vacation.

Not that the White House has done much better. Gene Sperling tried to shift the blame to governors, noting that states have received $49 billion in grants to deal with the renter issues of COVID-19 and have only spent $3 billion. As Jang points out, however, those funds are controlled by Sperling, at least in theory, and there’s some question as to how much autonomy the states actually have with this money.

That was in part what scotched Pelosi’s lame, last-minute attempt to patch up the issue, and its failure had nothing to do with Biden or Republicans:

On Friday, Biden placed the responsibility for stopping evictions in large part on state and local governments. Later, a push by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for Congress to extend the moratorium collapsed.

That initiative was opposed by about 20 moderate House Democrats who objected to another extension that did not provide incentives for state and local governments to disburse more of the $46 billion allotted to help landlords and tenants. Only $3 billion has been used thus far.

And on that point, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will meet with House Democrats today to discuss the reasons why this money isn’t being disbursed. The Washington Post’s report on this suggests that Congress may have flubbed this as well, using a firehose when a garden hose might have been a better choice for the money:

“States and cities need at least another couple months to get this money out and there’s no sticks or carrots Treasury can wield to make that happen faster. What we need is time,” said Paul Williams, a housing expert and fellow at the nonprofit Jain Family Institute and the author of the analysis.

Williams said several city governments he has spoken to are doing essentially everything it can to get the federal funding out but faces constraints that made accelerating the funding impossible.

“There’s not stick you can beat them with to make them go faster. They’re limited by technical and staff capacity to actually get this done,” Williams said.

Congress could, of course, come back into session to deal with this situation. Progressive Democrats are also demanding that Pelosi recall them, but she’s too busy punting to the CDC to bother. “We will not relent until families and landlords have been protected from this crisis,” she declared yesterday, but so far the only thing Pelosi’s not relenting from is vacation. Whose fault is that?