Nancy Pelosi, White House Point Fingers Over End of Eviction Moratorium

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is again calling on the Biden White House to extend a ban on evictions for people who have been unable to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic, after the COVID-19 moratorium lapsed over the weekend.

"We all agree that the eviction crisis is an enormous challenge to the conscience of our country," Pelosi, a California Democrat, wrote in a letter to colleagues on Monday as the House remained in recess. "It is unfathomable that we would not act to prevent people from being evicted."

The White House, citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed the moratorium to run through Saturday, said Congress must act and the evection ban can't be extended through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as it previously had been because of public health concerns.

"The administration is going to work together with leaders in Congress on potential avenues to extend the eviction moratorium to protect these vulnerable renters and their families," Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Friday. "We understand how critical that is how important it is."

The White House didn't immediately respond to Newsweek's request for comment on Pelosi's latest call for action from the administration. Pelosi's office also tweeted over the weekend calling for the White House to act.

Progressive Democrats have blamed House leadership for allowing members to recess before passage. Pelosi also pointed to the U.S. Senate, where Democrats have a razor-thin majority, as being a hurdle for the measure's passage.

A U.S. Census Bureau survey conducted last month found about 7.4 million people indicated they were behind on rent. About 3.6 million reported they were "somewhat likely" or "very likely" to face eviction in the coming months.

The Supreme Court ruling came down in June and signaled that Congress must act, but some Democrats have complained that the Biden administration didn't raise the issue until days before the moratorium was set to expire. U.S. House leaders spent much of Friday trying to hash out an agreement—first for an extension through December and then shifting to an extension to mid-October—before a breakdown in negotiations. The chamber adjourned for the regularly-scheduled August recess without acting, but members have been put on a 24-hour notice to return to the Capitol if action is needed.

"Overwhelmingly, our members agreed to extend the moratorium and universally, to distribute the funds. But the House passing the eviction moratorium without the Senate acting does not extend the moratorium," Pelosi wrote in her letter. "Instead, the money must flow, and the moratorium must be extended by the administration."

Congress has allocated $46 billion to state and local governments for rent relief programs for tenants and landlords, but much of it hasn't been distributed. Officials estimate just $3 billion has been spent.

Pelosi, in her letter, urged members to promote "the immediate disbursement of funds to tenants and landlords."

"As we urge the White House to act, please note that Congress will work to address any vulnerability to the CDC identified by the courts," she wrote.

President Joe Biden also stressed in a statement Friday that state and local governments should work to prevent widespread evictions.

"State and local governments can and should use both the Emergency Rental Assistance and their American Rescue Plan state and local funds to support policies with courts, community groups and legal aid to ensure no one seeks an eviction when they have not sought out Emergency Rental Assistance funds," Biden said. "State and local governments should also be aware that there is no legal barrier to moratorium at the state and local level."

Eviction moratorium expires while Democrats feud
A sign calling for fighting evictions is set on the ground as Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) spends the night outside the U.S. Capitol to call for an extension of the federal eviction moratorium on July 31, 2021 in Washington, DC. The eviction moratorium, which ended over the weekend, has helped 2 million people who suffered financial hardships due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, stay in their homes. Joshua Roberts/Getty Images