President Joe Biden reversed himself Tuesday, reinstating a ban on evicting renters who are behind on rent payments despite potential legal challenges.
Last week, Biden called on Congress to put legislation on his desk that would have extended a federal moratorium against evictions. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) and other top Democrats failed to wrangle the votes necessary in the lower chamber, however, after a number of their caucus’ moderate members rebelled.
Biden argued last week that he lacked the authority to extend the moratorium without Congress’ approval, citing recent signals from the Supreme Court that any potential extension would be struck down. Biden reversed himself following the failure of House Democratic leadership, reinstituting the ban that had lapsed over the weekend and attaching stiff penalties for landlords who violate the order.
“A person violating this Order may be subject to a fine of no more than $100,000 or one year in jail, or both, if the violation does not result in a death, or a fine of no more than $250,000 or one year in jail, or both if the violation results in a death or s otherwise provided by law,” the new order, drafted by the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) states.
“An organization violating this Order may be subject to a fine of no more than $200,000 per event if the violation does not result in a death or $500,000 per event if the violation results in a death or as otherwise provided by law,” the order continues. “The U.S. Department of Justice may initiate criminal proceedings as appropriate seeking imposition of these criminal penalties.”
On Monday, the White House said that the CDC lacked the authority to extend the emergency mandate, put into place in September to prevent people who had lost income due to the pandemic from losing their housing, as well. The Biden administration has claimed that the economic downturn that necessitated such action has ended.
“[CDC officials] have been unable to find legal authority for a new, targeted eviction moratorium,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a press conference.
“Our team is redoubling efforts to identify all available legal authorities to provide necessary protections,” she added. “In the meantime, the President will continue to do everything in his power to help renters from eviction.”
Psaki’s comments came after Pelosi publicly called for Biden to reinstate the moratorium following her failure to unite her caucus.
“On Thursday, the President asked Congress to pass an extension of the eviction moratorium. Sadly, it is clear that the Senate is not able to do so, and any legislation in the House, therefore, will not be sufficient to extend the moratorium,” House Democratic leaders led by Pelosi said in a Sunday statement.
“Action is needed, and it must come from the Administration. That is why House leadership is calling on the Administration to immediately extend the moratorium,” the statement continued. “As the CDC doubles down on mask-wearing and vaccination efforts, science and reason demand that they must also extend the moratorium in light of the delta variant. Doing so is a moral imperative to keep people from being put out on the street which also contributes to the public health emergency.”
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