[guest post by JVW]
September is setting up to be a horrid month for the Biden Administration and his fellow Democrats. Earlier this evening, the Supreme Court, to the surprise of no one at this blog, ruled that the administration’s cynical flip-flop in allowing the CDC to extend the rental eviction moratorium does not in fact pass Constitutional muster. Both Chief Justice Roberts and Associate Justice Kavanaugh, who this past spring had joined with the liberals to allow the eviction ban to be extended a few extra months, joined this time with their conservative colleagues in ruling 6-3 that the CDC simply does not have the authorization from Congress to direct housing policy in over 80% of the country. The majority’s unsigned per curiam opinion made clear that Justice Kavanaugh was deadly serious when he wrote this past spring that any extension beyond August 1 would require Congressional authorization:
Careful review of [the] record makes clear that the applicants are virtually certain to succeed on the merits of their argument that the CDC has exceeded its authority. It would be one thing if Congress had specifically authorized the action that the CDC has taken. But that has not happened. Instead, the CDC has imposed a nationwide moratorium on evictions in reliance on a decades-old statute that authorizes it to implement measures like fumigation and pest extermination. It strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the CDC the sweeping authority that it asserts [. . .]
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a dissent, joined by the other two left-wing members of the Court, which focused more on the idea that rather than summary judgement, the Court should have had a full hearing on the issue and rendered their decision in — oh, I don’t know — November or December. He also placed a great deal of emphasis on the idea that COVID rates are rising, and that the hardship suffered by landlords who are not receiving rent money can’t be all that bad since (1) tenants have been ordered to pay “as much as they possibly can” in the interim and (2) Congress has allocated $46.5 billion to go to landlords to make up the lost revenue. Justice Breyer either elides or is completely ignorant of the fact that (1) the idea that tenants are going to make partial payments when they have no obligation to do so is pretty far-fetched and (2) that money allocated by Congress has been held up by red tape at the state level and to date only about $5 billion of that $46.5 billion (a whopping 11%) has made its way to the pockets of landlords.
So landlords will now presumably be free to begin the eviction process anew, or, to put a finer point on it, tenants will once again be on the hook for paying up. This brings us to our next crisis point for President Biden and the Democrat Congressional leadership: the looming expiration of federal unemployment benefits. Matt Weidinger explains [bold emphasis added by me]:
On Labor Day, an estimated 7.5 million individuals are expected to see their temporary federal unemployment benefits come to an abrupt end. But even though that will mark the largest shutoff of such benefits in American history, two political dynamics have made mention of the approaching benefits cliff all but taboo in progressive policy circles: The cliff was designed by the Democratic authors of the March 2021 American Rescue Plan, and it will disproportionately affect residents of blue states.
[. . .]
One of the ironies of the coming cliff is that it was intentional. The Democratic authors of the March 2021 American Rescue Plan that extended benefits through Labor Day insisted on replacing the “soft phaseouts” created in a bipartisan December 2020 law, which would have allowed current recipients to continue collecting benefits for some time after the program closed to new applicants, with a “hard cutoff” that took away all recipients’ benefits at the same time. Why? Because in the bizarre logic of some liberal policymakers, hard cutoffs improve the odds that Congress will approve another extension. The more acute and widespread the pain of a program’s expiration, the malign thinking goes, the greater the political pressure to extend it.
That logic has been undercut by many states’ decision to simply opt out of paying federal benefits in recent weeks. The opt-outs include most red states, whose leaders argue that expanded federal unemployment benefits have kept people from returning to work. And as a result, they have reduced many red-state representatives’ incentive to support another extension of benefits, since the checks wouldn’t be going to their constituents regardless.
That contributes to the second irony behind the coming benefits cliff: The vast majority of those about to lose benefits as a result of the Democrat-designed law are residents of blue states, including populous California, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, and New Jersey. In the week ending July 24, over 80 percent of those receiving major federal benefits were in states led by a Democratic governor.
With vaccines widely available and record job openings, it is well past time for these extraordinary benefits to end. President Biden dismissed the possibility of another extension in May. Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) recently seconded that, when he suggested “I’m done with extensions.” Just last week, the Biden administration formally pulled the plug on further federal funding, stating in a letter to Congress that the $300 bonuses “will expire” as scheduled. The fact that it is Democrats who are nixing any chance of another extension has undoubtedly contributed to what some call the “current silence of federal policymakers” about the upcoming benefits cliff. But two lesser-known truths — that the cliff was designed by Democrats, and that it will disproportionately affect the residents of blue states — also explain why Washington lawmakers who usually cheer on more benefits have been notably silent about the “hard cutoff” to come.
So, yet again, the ultra-clever Democrats — the “adults in the room,” the “competent professionals,” etc. — have out-smarted themselves. And we now face a September in which not only will plenty of blue state residents (and some red state residents too of course) lose their federal jobless benefits, but they will also likely be required to start forking over the rent money too. And all of this just as the party leadership wants to pile on over $4 trillion in new spending. Pity the poor purple or red state Democrat who has to try to explain this mess to his or her constituents, a wound the party has inflicted entirely upon themselves.