• 79°

Frustration as Biden, Congress allow eviction ban to expire

By Lisa Mascaro, Josh Boak and Kevin Freking
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Anger and frustration mounted as President Joe Biden showed no signs of reversing plans to allow a nationwide eviction moratorium to expire at midnight Saturday — one Democratic lawmaker even camping outside the Capitol in protest as millions of Americans were about to be forced from their homes.

Biden’s decision announced days before the eviction deadline stunned many in Congress and exposed a rare divide between the president and his party, with potential lasting political ramifications. Lawmakers said they were blindsided by Biden’s inaction, some furious that he called on Congress to provide a last-minute solution to protect renters that they were unable to deliver.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the chair of the Financial Services Committee, said Saturday on CNN: “We thought that the White House was in charge.”

One lawmaker, Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., camped overnight at the Capitol in protest. “I don’t plan to leave before some type of change happens,” Bush said.

“We are only hours away from a fully preventable housing crisis,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., during a floor speech in a rare Saturday session as senators labored over an infrastructure package.

“We have the tools and we have the funding,” Warren said. “What we need is the time.”

More than 3.6 million Americans are at risk of eviction, some in a matter of days, as a moratorium comes to an end. It was put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as part of the COVID-19 crisis when jobs shifted and many workers lost income.

The eviction ban was intended to prevent further virus spread by people put out on the streets and into shelters. Congress approved nearly $47 billion in federal housing aid to the states during the pandemic, but it been slow to make it into the hands of renters and landlords owed payments.

The day before the ban was set to expire, Biden called on local governments to “take all possible steps” to immediately disburse the funds.

“There can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic,” he said in a statement late Friday.

Biden set off the scramble by announcing Thursday he would allow the eviction ban to expire instead of challenging a recent Supreme Court ruling signaling this would be the last deadline.

The White House has been clear that Biden would have liked to extend the federal eviction moratorium because of the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. But there were also concerns that challenging the court could lead to a ruling restricting the administration’s ability to respond to future public health crises.

On a 5-4 vote in late June, the Supreme Court allowed the broad eviction ban to continue through the end of July. One of those in the majority, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, made clear he would block any additional extensions unless there was “clear and specific congressional authorization.”

Biden, heeding the court’s warning, called on Congress on Thursday to swiftly pass legislation to extend the date.

Racing to respond, Democrats strained to draft a bill and rally the votes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi implored colleagues to pass legislation extending the deadline, calling it a “moral imperative,” to protect renters and also the landlords who are owed compensation.

Waters quickly produced a draft of a bill that would require the CDC to continue the ban through Dec. 31. At a hastily arranged hearing Friday morning to consider the bill she urged her colleagues to act.

But Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the top Republican on another panel handling the issue, said the Democrats’ bill was rushed.

“This is not the way to legislate,” she said.

Landlords, who have opposed the moratorium and challenged it repeatedly in court, are against any extension. They, too, are arguing for speeding up the distribution of rental assistance.

The National Apartment Association and several others this week filed a federal lawsuit asking for $26 billion in damages because of the impact of the moratorium.

Despite behind-the-scenes wrangling throughout the day, Democratic lawmakers had questions and concerns and could not muster support to extend the ban.

Revising the emergency legislation to shorten the eviction deadline to Oct. 18, in line with federal COVID-19 guidelines, drew a few more lawmakers in support — but still not enough for passage.

House Democrats, leaders tried to simply approve an extension by consent, without a formal vote, but House Republicans objected.

Democratic lawmakers were livid at the prospect of evictions in the middle of a surging pandemic.

Bush, who experienced homelessness as a young mother of two in her 20s, said that, at the time, she was working in a low-wage job.

“I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what I went through, ever,” said Bush, now 45, wiping away tears during an interview at the Capitol, where dozens had joined her protest. “I don’t care what the circumstances are and so I’m going to fight now that I’m in a position to be able to do something about it.”

Waters said House leaders should have forced a vote and Biden should not have let the warnings form one justice on the Supreme Court prevent him from taking executive action to prevent evictions.

“The president should have moved on it,” Waters said. She vowed to try to pass the bill again when lawmakers return from a recess.

By the end of March, 6.4 million American households were behind on their rent, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. As of July 5, roughly 3.6 million people in the U.S. said they faced eviction in the next two months, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.

Some places are likely to see spikes in evictions starting Monday, while other jurisdictions will see an increase in court filings that will lead to evictions over several months.

The administration is trying to keep renters in place through other means. It released more than $1.5 billion in rental assistance in June, which helped nearly 300,000 households. The departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs extended their foreclosure-related eviction moratoriums through the end of September on households living in federally insured, single-family homes late Friday, after Biden had asked them to do so.

Aides to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, the chair of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, said the two were working on legislation to extend the moratorium and were asking Republicans not to block it.

Comments

Crime

Defense witness gives tearful account of deadly shooting in Fishzilla murder trial

News Main

High school football: Hornets easily handle unbeaten Thomasville; North, Davie also romp

Elections

Judges strike down state’s voter ID law

Crime

Jury finds Robert Durst guilty of best friend’s murder

Crime

Jeffrey MacDonald ends release appeal from infamous 1970 slayings

Business

State unemployment rate falls to 4.3% in August

High School

West looking like a postseason contender in 49-14 rout of Carson

Coronavirus

Outside experts back COVID-19 booster shots only for seniors, high-risk individuals

Crime

China Grove man jailed for possessing child pornography, assault, kidnapping

Crime

Spencer man charged with rape

Crime

Blotter: Boy served with juvenile justice petition for shooting

Education

North Rowan High student creates artwork for Community Care Clinic

Kannapolis

Rugby coming to Kannapolis on Sept. 25

Education

RSS superintendent talks to Chamber of Commerce about renewal, state of public education

Crime

Prosecution in Fishzilla murder case introduces more witness accounts, handgun used in shooting

Local

Volunteers needed as High Rock Lake to host fourth annual Clean Sweep event on Saturday

High School

High school volleyball: West back on track after sweeping Carson

Local

GOP candidate, Lexington attorney Jim Snyder dead at 76

Nation/World

Judge says farm workers’ union law provision is unconstitutional

Coronavirus

For second day in a row, six new COVID-19 deaths reported in Rowan County

Local

Main Street repaving scheduled to start Monday evening

Crime

Sex offender faces new charges for living too close to Head Start in China Grove

Crime

Salisbury man wanted for August murder on Carpenters Circle

Local

One-of-a-kind barn quilt goes up in western Rowan County