WASHINGTON (AP) – Anger and frustration rose in Congress as the eviction moratorium expired at the national level At midnight Saturday, a Democratic lawmaker even camped out in front of the Capitol in protest as millions of Americans faced being forced from their homes.
Lawmakers said President Joe Biden’s inaction surprised them as the deadline approached, some furious that he asked Congress to provide a last-minute solution to protect tenants. The rare division between the president and his party had possible long-lasting political ramifications.
Rep. Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, chair of the Financial Services Committee, said Saturday on CNN: “We thought the White House was in charge.”
Rep. Cori Bush, D-Missouri, camped out in front of the Capitol, said, “I don’t plan on leaving before some kind of change happens.”
“We are just hours away from a fully preventable housing crisis,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, said during a speech in a rare session Saturday as senators worked on an infrastructure package.
“We have the tools and we have the funding,” Warren said. “What we need is time.”
More than 3.6 million Americans are at risk of eviction, some in a matter of days. The moratorium was implemented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as part of the COVID-19 crisis when jobs changed and many workers lost income.
The ban on evictions was intended to prevent further spread of the virus by people on the streets and in shelters. Congress approved nearly $ 47 billion in federal housing aid to states during the pandemic, but it has been slow to get to renters and landlords in debt.
The day before the ban expired, Biden called on local governments to “take all possible steps” to disburse the funds immediately.
“There can be no excuse for any state or locality not to accelerate funding for homeowners and renters who have been injured during this pandemic,” he said in a statement Friday night.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointed Democratic House members in the same direction, urging them in a letter Saturday night to verify how the money already allocated so far has been distributed in their own states and localities. He said the Treasury Department, which transferred the funds earlier in the year, offered to brief lawmakers next week.
Biden launched the fight for announcing Thursday it would allow the eviction ban to expire instead of challenging a recent Supreme Court ruling that this would be the last deadline.
The White House has made it clear that Biden would have liked to extend the federal moratorium on evictions due to 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 that restricted the administration’s ability to respond to future public health crises.
In a 5-4 votes at the end of June, the Supreme Court allowed the broad ban on evictions to continue until the end of July. One of the majority, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, made it clear that he would block any further extension unless there was “clear and specific authorization from Congress.”
Biden, heeding the court’s warning, asked Congress on Thursday to quickly pass legislation to extend the date.
Rushing to respond, Democrats struggled to draft a bill and rally the votes. Pelosi implored her colleagues to pass legislation to extend the deadline, calling it a “moral imperative,” to protect tenants and also landlords who are owed compensation.
Waters quickly drew up a draft of a bill that would require the CDC to continue the ban through Dec. 1. 31. At a hastily arranged hearing on Friday morning to consider the bill, he urged his colleagues to act.
But Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the top Republican on another panel handling the issue, said the Democrats’ bill was rushed.
“This is not the way to legislate,” he said.
The owners, who have opposed the moratorium and repeatedly challenged it in court, are against any extension. They also advocate speeding up the distribution of rental assistance.
The National Apartment Association and several others filed a federal lawsuit this week seeking $ 26 billion in damages due to the impact of the moratorium.
Despite backstage disputes throughout the day, Democratic lawmakers had questions and concerns and could not muster support to extend the ban.
Review emergency legislation to shorten the eviction period to October. 18, in line with federal COVID-19 guidelines, drew a few more lawmakers in support, but not yet enough for approval.
House Democratic leaders tried simply to pass an extension by consent, without a formal vote, but House Republicans opposed.
Democratic lawmakers were furious at the prospect of evictions amid a growing pandemic.
Bush, who experienced homelessness as a young mother of two boys in her 20s, said she was working a low-paying job at the time.
“I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what I went through, ever,” said Bush, now 45, wiping tears during an interview on Capitol Hill, where dozens of people joined his protest. “I don’t care what the circumstances are, so I’m going to fight now that I’m in a position to do something about it.”
Waters said House leaders should have forced a vote and Biden should not have let the warnings of a single Supreme Court justice prevent him from taking executive action to prevent evictions.
“The president should have moved,” Waters said. He promised to try to pass the bill again when lawmakers return from recess.
As of 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, approximately 3.6 million people in the US said they would face eviction in the next two months, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.
Some places are likely to experience spikes in evictions starting Monday, while other jurisdictions will see an increase in court filings that will lead to evictions over several months.
Management is trying to keep the tenants in their place by other means. It released more than $ 1.5 billion in rental assistance in June, helping nearly 300,000 households. The Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs extended their eviction moratoriums related to foreclosures until the end of September on households living in single-family homes insured by the federal government on Friday night, after Biden had them asked them to do so.
Aides to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., and Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, chairman 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.
Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe, Mark Sherman, and Alan Fram contributed to this report.