On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki discussed the recent extension of the eviction moratorium at a press briefing after many criticized the move as an abuse of government power and after the Supreme Court appeared to suggest such an action would likely be unconstitutional in a June decision.
“The administration, the White House, was engaged directly with the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)] at the direction of the president to ask them to look into what legal options — if any, if any — existed — there were — to extend the eviction moratorium,” she explained to reporters.
“When we put out a statement on Monday … that also made clear in there that at that time they had not yet found a legal pathway forward,” she added.
“What was announced yesterday was not an extension of the existing moratorium, which was of course, national. It was a more limited moratorium that was going to be impacting and helping areas that were hardest hit by COVID — so different than the last moratorium,” she said.
“That was also reflected in the statement that we issued on Monday — that that was the president’s ask — to look into a more limited moratorium. They did that and yesterday’s announcement was a reflection of that process,” she added.
Psaki noted, “We don’t control the courts. We don’t know what they will do. We are all aware of the Supreme Court decision at the end of June and what was outlined in their decision at the end of June.”
“This is also going to be a temporary solution regardless and a longer-term solution will require legislative action,” she added.
Psaki was later asked specifically about the legal teams involved. A reporter asked, “Who inside the administration signed off on the legality of what the CDC proposed yesterday?”
“The CDC’s lawyers, as well as our counsel’s office,” she answered, noting that she wasn’t aware of the Justice Department’s engagement and would need to check on it.
“This is not a permanent solution. It is extended through the beginning of October,” she later pressed.
On Wednesday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky sent out a tweet saying that she “signed an eviction moratorium for US counties experiencing substantial & high levels of [COVID-19] transmission. Mass evictions could lead to new spikes in COVID-19.”
“This order will help those who are at risk of transmitting COVID-19 self-quarantine,” she added, including a link to the order.
I signed an eviction moratorium for US counties experiencing substantial & high levels of #COVID19 transmission. Mass evictions could lead to new spikes in COVID-19. This order will help those who are at risk of transmitting COVID-19 self-quarantine. https://t.co/aVN1qeszex
— Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH (@CDCDirector) August 4, 2021
“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,” The Daily Wire noted.
Biden changed course after the House Democrats were not able to get legislation together and reinstated the ban, along with harsh punishments for landlords who go against 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 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.”
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