Supreme Court Blocks Biden Eviction Moratorium in 6-3 Decision

The Supreme Court's conservative majority blocked the Biden administration's federal eviction moratorium on Thursday.

The moratorium from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was to have ended on October 3. In a 6-3 decision, the court ended the ban early by ruling that the CDC did not have the legal authority to stop evictions and that "Congress must specifically authorize" a federal moratorium for it to continue.

"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," the decision reads. "It strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the CDC the sweeping authority that it asserts."

Justice Stephen Breyer dissented from Thursday's decision, with fellow liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joining him. Breyer argued that the relevant statute does grant the CDC "authority to design measures that, in the agency's judgment, are essential to contain disease outbreaks."

"The public interest is not favored by the spread of disease or a court's second-guessing of the CDC's judgment," Breyer wrote in the dissent. "The public interest strongly favors respecting the CDC's judgment at this moment, when over 90% of counties are experiencing high transmission rates."

eviction moratorium supreme court scotus
The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 against extending the moratorium on evictions due to the pandemic. This photo shows demonstrators calling for an extension of the state's eviction ban until 2022 and the cancellation of rent, in lower Manhattan on August 11. Ed Jones/AFP/Getty

The moratorium was issued on August 3, days after the previous ban expired and Congress failed to act by passing a replacement. President Joe Biden admitted that the "bulk of the constitutional scholarship says that it's not likely to pass constitutional muster," while arguing that the new moratorium was "worth the effort" because it could at least buy some time for tenants facing eviction.

In a statement obtained by Newsweek, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the Biden administration was "disappointed that the Supreme Court has blocked the most recent CDC eviction moratorium while confirmed cases of the Delta variant are significant across the country." Psaki said the ruling would mean "families will face the painful impact of evictions, and communities across the country will face greater risk of exposure to COVID-19."

"In light of the Supreme Court ruling and the continued risk of COVID-19 transmission, President Biden is once again calling on all entities that can prevent evictions - from cities and states to local courts, landlords, Cabinet Agencies - to urgently act to prevent evictions," Psaki added.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) urged Congress to "come back into session and vote to extend the moratorium" in a tweet. Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that the decision was "vile" and "unjust," dubbing the court's conservatives a "group of right wing extremists" who "decided to throw families out of their homes during a global pandemic."

A group of right wing extremists just decided to throw families out of their homes during a global pandemic.

This is an attack on working people across our country and city. New York won’t stand for this vile, unjust decision.

— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) August 27, 2021

The office of embattled Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statement reminding the state's renters that they will not be affected by the court's decision since California's own eviction moratorium remains active.

California renters will NOT be impacted by this news, the state’s eviction moratorium remains in effect.

We’re focused on ensuring tenants and small landlords get the rent relief they need under California’s renter assistance program, the largest in the country.

— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) August 27, 2021