Speaking at the White House on Tuesday, Biden said he pushed the CDC to again consider its options. But he still seemed hesitant as to whether the new moratorium could withstand lawsuits about its constitutionality, saying he has sought the opinions of experts as to whether the Supreme Court would approve the measure.
“The bulk of the constitutional scholarship says that it’s not likely to pass constitutional muster,” Biden said. “But there are several key scholars who think that it may and it’s worth the effort.”
The president added that the moratorium — even if it gets challenged in court — “will probably give some additional time” for states and city to release billions of dollars in federal relief to renters.
Politically, the extension could help heal a rift with liberal Democratic lawmakers who were calling on the president to take executive action to keep renters in their homes. The administration had spent the past several days scrambling to reassure Democrats and the country that it could find a way to limit the damage from potential evictions through the use of federal aid.
But pressure mounted as key lawmakers said it was not enough.
Top Democratic leaders joined Rep. Cori Bush, D-Missouri, who has been camped outside the U.S. Capitol for several days. The freshman congresswoman once lived in her car as a young mother and pointed to that experience to urge the White House to prevent widespread evictions.
As she wiped her eyes before a crowd at the Capitol after the CDC's announcement, Bush said she was shedding “joyful tears.”
“My God, I don’t believe we did this,” she said. "We just did the work, just by loving folks to keep millions in their homes.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it was a day of "extraordinary relief.”
“The imminent fear of eviction and being put out on the street has been lifted for countless families across America. Help is Here!” Pelosi said in a statement.
Administration officials had previously said a Supreme Court ruling stopped them from setting up a new moratorium without congressional backing. When the court allowed the eviction ban to remain in place through the end of July by a 5-4 vote, one justice in the majority, Brett Kavanaugh, wrote that Congress would have to act to extend it further.
But on Tuesday, the CDC cited the slow pace of state and local governments disbursing housing aid as justification for the new moratorium.
Aside from the moratorium, Biden has insisted that federal money is available — some $47 billion previously approved during the pandemic — that needs to get out the door to help renters and landlords.
“The money is there,” Biden said.
The White House has said state and local governments have been slow to push out that federal money and is pressing them to do so swiftly.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen briefed House Democrats Tuesday about the work underway to ensure the federal housing aid makes it to renters and landlords. She provided data so that lawmakers could see how their districts and states are performing with distributing the relief, according to a person on the call.
The treasury secretary tried to encourage Democrats to work together, even as lawmakers said Biden should act on his own to extend the eviction moratorium, according to someone on the private call who insisted on anonymity to discuss its contents.