This week’s rare clash between the Biden administration, congressional Democrats over an expired eviction moratorium could be a model for bigger fights to come.
A new generation of progressive legislators found allies in the congressional leadership and demanded that the White House pay more attention to them. They used their tactics to protest for several days on the steps at the U.S. Capitol. This led to the White House having to come up with a way to keep most tenants inside their homes.
Many progressives feel that the time of deference has come to an end after President Joe Biden spent his first months in office largely holding back. With Democrats holding narrow margins in Congress and the White House likely to be paying more attention to the left wing, particularly as the administration pushes for an infrastructure package, this could mean that the White House will have to pay more attention to them in the coming weeks.
“Hopefully, it has shown leadership, the caucus and our progressive family that when you say we aren’t going to back down we don’t backdown,” said Rep. Cori Bus, D-Mo. who organized the round-the clock sit-in at the Capitol steps.
There are warning signs, even though progressives feel empowered in Washington. On Tuesday, Ohio voters rejected Sen. Bernie Sanders’ enthusiastic support for a congressional candidate. This follows similar defeats suffered by the left in earlier elections in New York City, Virginia.
Bush’s protest was however a highlight of this week’s progressive rebellion.
The House had already attempted — and failed –to pass a quick-drafted bill to stop a moratorium from expiring by Friday night when she brought her chair to Capitol steps. Biden was informed by Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, and Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader, that Congress wouldn’t be able provide a legislative solution.
Bush started her vigil as people streamed up to the steps to support her. She spoke passionately about her time in office being unhoused. As a young mother of two, she lived out of her Ford Explorer on streets surrounding her St. Louis-area congressional district.
Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York were among her visitors. Their presence added to media attention.
Another quieter lobbying campaign was underway. Pelosi made a series of calls to Biden over several days insisting that the administration move unilaterally. She also wanted to focus on a new moratorium directly related to the public health emergency as well as the delta variant.
She said things like, “They can do it, but I don’t understand what they’re talking.” They can do it,” Rep. Maxine Wassers, D.Calif., chairwoman of the Financial Services Committee, stated about Pelosi.
“We said, “Mr. Waters stated, “We said, “Mr.
Officials at the White House were acutely aware of the fact that many of the people affected by the moratorium were Biden constituents, and they recognized the necessity to keep liberals on the party line.
Many in the administration were enraged by the claims that they failed to take a proactive stance to stop evictions. According to a senior White House official, who asked anonymity to speak with the president about conversations with him, their efforts had been a whirlwind of activity and energy for several months.
First, the Trump administration’s guidance regarding renting aid required extensive documentation. This hampered the program. After consulting housing experts, advocates, and academics, Biden’s team updated this guidance several times. They wanted to make it easier to administer the updated guidance in states and cities.
The White House approached the local courts to evict the residents of the area where the Supreme Court recommended that Congress approve any extension of the moratorium. According to the official, their goal was for local judges to require that the renters make efforts before they approve any evictions.
After days of negative headlines, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a new eviction moratorium. It would be in effect until October 3. As the coronavirus’ delta strain has spread, and states have been slow in releasing federal rental aid, the ban announced Tuesday could help millions of people stay in their homes.
According to a senior White House official, the president was told that a national moratorium would be unconstitutional. However, Biden continued to instruct agencies to investigate the matter and find ways to keep people inside their homes. A targeted, dynamic moratorium was key to ensuring that evictions can resume after a significant reduction in COVID-19 infection.
This made it different than the previous nationwide moratorium, which was not adjusted for the trends of the pandemic.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, stated Wednesday that “this is also going to prove temporary regardless and a longer-term resolution will require legislative action.” “But (Biden)’s message to any passionate advocate is that he not only shares their concern but also shares their commitment.
Biden has focused his agenda on working across the aisle in the bipartisan infrastructure agreement, which includes keeping moderate Democratic senators satisfied. President Obama has not yet fully addressed progressive priorities such as climate change, voter rights, and student debt.
The eviction moratorium was a win for progressives and a proof of their power heading into a budget package that is particularly central to Biden’s promise to reshape the government’s relationship to its citizens.
“Today’s event is significant because it marks, in my hope, a turning moment in the White House’s view of progressives,” stated Rep. Mondaire Mondaire Jones (D-NY). “We are ready to harness our energy and activism in close coordination and grassroots activists and people across this country with good conscience to do the right thing for the American people.”
The administration is aware that the government will have to end the current eviction moratorium. However, aid still remains in state coffers.
The White House Domestic Policy Council (the official responsible for coronavirus relief programs) and Gene Sperling (the official in charge of the program) met with each department to discuss ways to help renters stay in their homes. Sperling and Susan Rice, White House adviser, will meet with Cabinet members to discuss ways of reducing the number of evictions after the new moratorium expires.
Waters, however, stated that she had prepared a package housing bills for Congress and will insist that it be included in Biden’s infrastructure measure.