[guest post by JVW]
I’m sure all of you have heard that the Biden Administration, via the Center for Disease Control (and Prevention), last night reimposed a 60-day moratorium on evictions of renters who have fallen in arrears on their rent. Protection for renters who found themselves sick, out of work, or both during the early days of COVID had been implemented during the Trump Administration, but after the Supreme Court narrowly allowed them to stand in a 5-4 ruling at the end of June, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who had sided with the majority of Chief Justice Roberts and the Court’s three progressives, declared that in his opinion any further extensions of the moratorium without specific legislative action from Congress would be illegal. Though Congress has made nearly $47 billion available to renters and landlords during the COVID panic, to date the states have only managed to distribute about $3 billion, thanks in great part to governmental red tape clogging the process for both tenants and landlords.
So with the July 31 expiration date looming last week, House Democrats attempted a last-ditch effort to extend it, only to fail. Even had they suceeded, the measure faced an uncertain fate in the more evenly-divided Senate, where some moderate Democrats have expressed concern that funds are not reaching landlords. For its part the Biden Administration wanted progressives to know that the administration would love nothing more than to provide a further extension, but that the Court’s ruling greatly limited their ability to act. The failure of the extension naturally brought on the typical showy grandstanding by the, uh, “more publicity-minded” members of the Democrat caucus. And then — whaddya know? — the administration suddenly reversed course and prevailed upon the CDC to extend the moratorium an additional 60 days.
And of course, the Biden Administration — including ol’ squinty eyes himself — doesn’t really believe that they have much of a Constitutional leg to stand upon. Quoth the President: “The bulk of the Constitutional scholars say it’s not likely to pass constitutional muster.” Yet the same guy cheerfully adds that even if it is struck down by the Court it “will give us some additional time” to distribute rent relief funds. Which is of course nonsense, as even once the moratorium ends those funds wouldn’t suddenly vaporize (even though, paradoxically enough, they were indeed created out of thin air), they would still be available to interested parties to cover back rent. As usual where progressives are inevitably in error the problem isn’t a lack of money, it’s the inability of the bureaucracy to efficiently distribute it.
This brazen cynicism by that particular political party who spent the last five years insisting we were on the verge of being issued well-tailored uniforms and taught how to goose-step ought to be remembered next time we hear this nonsense about “undermining Constitutional norms” coming from those people who are cheering on as the Center for Disease Control determines our nation’s housing policy. As NRO points out, it’s weaponizing the bureaucracy to reach your party’s ideological aims taken to a new extreme. Charlie Cooke excoriates CNN (an easy target, granted) for completely eliding the central fact that hardly anybody believes this is legal, and the NRO editorial board points out that extending rent relief will continue to exacerbate the problem of the unemployed concluding that staying home and receiving government cheese beats going out and finding work.
Probably the best case scenario is that the Court immediately intervenes and declares the CDC’s edict unconstitutional, but with Chief Justice John Let’s-Not-Step-On-Anbody’s-Toes-Unnecessarily-m’Kay Roberts at the helm it’s sort of doubtful that will happen (and certainly a big part of the Biden Administration’s strategy here is the idea that the Court will take several weeks to adjudicate this matter). Short of that, Philip Klein believes that Republican Senators must respond by immediately revoking cooperation for the infrastructure bill and by blocking all other Biden spending initiatives. Charlie Cooke, after easily dispatching CNN, calls for a federalist response in which non-crazy states and locales should simply ignore the CDC’s extension and make it known that tenants behind on the rent must make some arrangements to pay or find themselves evicted. All sensible responses to the Biden Administration’s unprecedented use of federal power to ram through dubious left-wing policy.