GOP lawmakers lambasted the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for issuing a fresh ban on certain evictions nationwide, even though President Biden conceded the new, targeted freeze may not stand up in court.
The latest moratorium, announced Tuesday by the CDC, protects renters in areas with "substantial and high levels" of coronavirus infections until Oct. 3. While Biden has acknowledged the legal dubiousness of the order – he warned the moratorium will "likely face obstacles" – the president maintained that it will at the very least provide temporary protection to Americans on the brink of homelessness while state and local officials rush to distribute $46 billion in rental assistance.
The White House initially declined to extend the original ban, argued its hands were tied by a recent Supreme Court ruling that implied most justices believed the CDC had exceeded its authority with the ban; however, facing immense pressure from progressive House Democrats, the administration reversed course.
"The bulk of the constitutional scholarship says it’s not likely to pass constitutional muster, number one," Biden said Tuesday. "But there are several key scholars who say that it may and it’s worth the effort."
Republicans immediately latched onto Biden's comment to criticize the latest halt on evictions, arguing that it lacked legal basis – a fact they said Biden had admitted.
"The eviction moratorium lacks both a legal basis and an economic justification," Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., wrote in a tweet. "Even the president admitted today that the ‘bulk of constitutional scholars say . . . it's not likely to pass constitutional muster.'"
Toomey noted that Congress, in December and March, had allocated some $46 billion to a rental assistance program designed to stave off a tidal wave of evictions and urged the Biden administration to focus on doling out that money. Recent Treasury Department data shows that just 6.6% of the money was doled out over the first half of the year.
To help tenants struggling to pay their rent and other bills, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched a new tool designed to assist those applying for federal relief money. Individuals who are approved can receive up to 18 months of rent covered.
"The admin’s time would be better spent dealing with its failure to get money owed to landlords rather than papering over its failures with illegal actions," Toomey added.
Other GOP lawmakers echoed that sentiment, quoting Biden to question the legality of the newest ban.
"This last-minute, unlawful eviction moratorium is another power grab by the White House for more command and control over the economy and our lives," tweeted Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R.-Wash. "No one wants to see people lose their homes but this moratorium will likely be struck down."
"The Biden admin is breaking the law by extending the eviction moratorium without congressional approval," said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.
Without the eviction halt, which the CDC first implemented last September, more than 15 million people living in the U.S. who were behind on their rental payments could have faced eviction, according to a study published Wednesday by the Aspen Institute and COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project.
At the same time, the ban has created financial hardship for many landlords.
According to an analysis from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, almost half of the country’s rental units are owned by individual investors landlords, or so-called "mom-and-pop" landlords, who depend on the money as part of their income.