Democrats are struggling to find a way to extend the eviction moratorium, which expires at midnight Saturday night, after the White House unexpectedly punted the issue to Congress on Thursday.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declined to say Friday that the House would vote on an extension, saying only that it would have to “find a solution” — and that she believed the Centers for Disease Control itself and Prevention could extend the moratorium, without an act of Congress.
“We would like the CDC to expand the moratorium. That’s where it can be done,” Pelosi told reporters.
No vote had been scheduled as of late morning Friday, with the House set to adjourn for its August recess. Democrats might not have enough votes to extend the moratorium. Asked if there would be a vote on Friday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said, “We’re counting.”
Pelosi told HuffPost, “We’ll see.”
Even if House Democrats manage to pass a bill extending the moratorium, it would very likely fail in the Senate, where Republicans are against the policy and Democrats need 60 votes to pass it.
If the moratorium expires, millions of Americans will be at risk of homelessness, even as COVID-19 caseloads once again rise, and as states continue to struggle to give out rent relief funds.
In June, 3.5 million adults said they were likely less than two months away from eviction, including more than 2 million households with children, according to a U.S. Census Bureau survey.
State and local governments have also been slow to get out relief funds, due to outdated systems and application backlogs. In total, only about $3 billion of the $46 billion in total funds that Congress allotted for emergency rental aid had been spent by the end of June.
These delays have been another source of frustration for Pelosi. “Forty-six billion dollars was allocated,” Pelosi said. “The money is there, resting in localities and the governors offices across the country.”
Congress was put in this nearly impossible situation by surprise Thursday, according to a Democratic aide, when White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden and the CDC were unable to extend the moratorium. With only three days’ notice, the White House called on Congress to extend the moratorium “without delay.”
The White House cited a Supreme Court ruling from a month ago. The Supreme Court ruled on June 29 that the eviction moratorium could stay in place. However, in siding with the court’s three liberal justices and Chief Justice John Roberts to allow for the continuation of the moratorium, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote he was doing so only with the expectation that it would expire at the end of July, and that any further extension would need congressional approval.
That, however, does not bar the White House from extending the moratorium on its own, though it does put the moratorium in legal jeopardy down the line.
The last-minute directive from the White House sent Democrats into a tailspin Thursday. The issue, which had largely been out of sight and out of mind for lawmakers in recent weeks as they remained laser-focused on passing a bipartisan infrastructure bill and budget resolution, was suddenly at the forefront of Democrats’ agenda.
Pelosi sent a letter to her ranks at 11 p.m. Thursday night, urging them to pass an extension to the moratorium.
“In the last 24 hours, a challenge to the conscience of the Congress has descended upon us, as millions of Covid-affected renter households are facing eviction,” Pelosi wrote.