House Democrats scrambling to set up vote on eviction ban extension
House Democratic leaders are scrambling to tee up a Friday vote on a bill that would extend a federal eviction ban through the end of the year with just two days before it expires.
The House Rules Committee on Friday morning debated a bill from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) to continue the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) eviction moratorium, which is set to lapse Sunday without congressional action. Waters, the chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, introduced an emergency measure on Thursday evening to extend the ban through Dec. 31.
Pelosi, however, circulated a letter to Democratic lawmakers Friday afternoon gauging their support for an extension through October 18 amid backlash from moderates.
The Rules panel, which sets terms of floor debate for House legislation, is expected to advance the bill at some point on Friday, just a day after President Biden urged Congress to extend the eviction ban.
“I quite frankly wish he had asked us sooner,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), chairman of the Rules panel, during Friday morning hearing.
“It's my hope we can move quickly to get this bill through the House,” McGovern added. “Every hour is of the essence.”
Biden’s request, issued two days before the House was set to break for the August recess, kicked off a rush to avert a potential eviction cliff. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pleaded with her caucus in letter sent late Thursday night, calling an extension “a moral imperative.”
“We in Congress have the opportunity — and the responsibility — to respect the dignity of those who have suffered so much in terms of their health, financial security and well-being,” she wrote.
Even so, it is unclear if Waters's bill has enough Democratic support to pass the House with what will likely be unanimous Republican opposition. If the legislation makes it through, it would then need support from at least 10 Republican senators, and all 50 members of the Democratic caucus, to avoid a GOP filibuster in the Senate.
Republicans have excoriated the Biden administration and House Democrats for waiting until the last moment to rush through an emergency extension despite knowing for more than a month about the impending deadline.
“This was a known and preventable disaster and to call it an emergency now is absolutely patently absurd,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry (N.C.), the top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee.
The CDC renewed the moratorium on June 24 through the end of July for what it said would be the last time. The Supreme Court also warned the administration on June 29 that further extensions of the CDC order must be approved by Congress, arguing the agency did not have the authority to issue the ban.
The administration has spent the past month trying to push state and local governments to distribute more of the $46 billion in federal rental aid they received to renters, landlords and utilities companies.
But surging cases of COVID-19 driven by the delta variant and the dismal pace of rental aid distribution prompted Biden to call on Congress for another extension just three days before the deadline, irking Democrats and enraging Republicans.
“My level of outrage here is sincere because I've been trying to work on this so we don't have to bring it to the Rules Committee on the last day of session,” McHenry said, highlighting GOP efforts to pass a bill to end the moratorium with an off-ramp program to avert evictions.
“I'm talking about the people that are going to be harmed by the inaction and the ineptitude of this legislative process, and the ineptitude of delivering these funds to people that are in need,” he added.
Waters and congressional Democrats have directed much of their criticism on the slow pace of aid allocation by many of the state and local governments tasked by the Treasury Department with distributing the funds. Less than 7 percent of the $46 billion approved under former President Trump and Biden had been received by intended recipients as of June.
While Waters ceded that an emergency extension wasn’t ideal, she said it was necessary to prevent the suffering and indignity of a mass eviction wave with another school year around the corner.
“When we're talking about children getting back in school, they won't be able to do that if they don't have a place to live,” she said. "I don't think any of us relish seeing what could happen to these families if we do not extend this eviction moratorium.”
Updated 3:14 p.m.