Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to extend the eviction moratorium as outrage among Democrats grows against the House and White House for not getting it done before lawmakers left town.
In a statement released via Twitter on Sunday, Ms Pelosi asserted that the CDC had the unilateral authority to extend a nationwide moratorium on evictions, and urged it to do so as millions of Americans face the possibility of eviction due to unpaid rent resulting from financial burdens brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The CDC has the power to extend the eviction moratorium. As they double down on masks, why wouldn't they extend the moratorium in light of delta variant?” the speaker tweeted.
“It is a moral imperative to keep people from being put out in the street which also contributes to the public health emergency”, she continued.
Her tweets followed two nights of protests against the House’s recess led by activists and progressive members of Congress on the steps of the Capitol; Rep Cori Bush, a freshman Black lawmaker from Missouri, even slept on the building’s steps overnight as her colleagues headed home.
The latest statement from the speaker is a sign that lawmakers continue to believe that the Biden administration has some authority to extend the ban without action from Congress. The lower chamber recessed at the end of last week after failing to pass an extension of the eviction ban, which failed after Republicans objected to its passage via unanimous consent.
In statements last week as well as over the weekend, Ms Pelosi and others in her caucus laid the blame on the White House’s shoulders for not being clear that it did not have the authority to extend the ban until just hours before lawmakers were set to leave town.
“Really, we only learned about this yesterday”, the speaker told reporters in one interview.
The White House has disputed that lawmakers were only informed late last week that they needed to act or the ban would end; a White House deputy press secretary contended that discussions had been ongoing for some time, but did not say with who.
Cases of the virus are continuing to rise around the US as a result of the spread of the Delta variant; millions of dollars allocated by Congress previously to help renters and landlords has also gone unspent due to inaction by some state governments.
Some progressives have gone as far in recent days as to suggest that conservative members of their own party were equally responsible for the failure of the House to extend the moratorium.
“The reason they’re not bringing it for a vote is because some Democrats privately have tried to kill this bill because of special interest of realtors and other groups”, said Rep Ro Khanna, a progressive from California, in an interview with MSNBC.
“And it is unconscionable that we don't have a vote on the House floor, that we're protecting some members to kill this behind closed doors and aren't being transparent. It's just wrong”, he added.