Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced the Supreme Court for ruling that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) had exceeded its statutory authority when it unilaterally issued its latest moratorium order regarding evictions of tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC had done so following the expiration of its previous moratorium order.
The Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision, issued on August 26, 2021, was in response to an application for emergency relief by a group of realtors and rental property managers.
“If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue,” the eight-page unsigned majority opinion declared, “Congress must specifically authorize it.” The three more liberal Supreme Court justices dissented.
Pelosi accused the Supreme Court of “immorally” ripping away relief for beleaguered tenants in “a ruling that is arbitrary and cruel.” Pelosi added that “Congressional Democrats have not and will not ever accept a situation of mass evictions.”
Pelosi has nobody to blame but herself and her fellow Democrats. “Congress was on notice that a further extension would almost surely require new legislation,” the majority opinion pointed out, “yet it failed to act in the several weeks leading up to the moratorium’s expiration.”
The Democrats control both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Yet they failed to pass the necessary congressional authorization, even after an earlier Supreme Court 5-4 decision had allowed the CDC’s previous eviction moratorium to run its course until its expiration date of July 31, 2021 with one major caveat from a key conservative member of that majority. Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh warned that he would not support any further extension beyond the July 31 expiration without “clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation).”
The signal to Congress could not have been any clearer – do your job! But the Democrat-controlled Congress, including the House that Pelosi normally rules with an iron hand, failed to legislate. The votes were simply not there. Instead, Pelosi and her progressive allies demanded that the Biden administration take executive action on its own to extend the moratorium.
Even President Joe Biden at first hesitated to go that far, after being advised by his lawyers that to do so would probably not survive a constitutional challenge. But the progressive left refused to take no for an answer.
Representative Cori Bush of Missouri, a radical member of the “Squad,” conducted a sit-in on the U.S. Capitol steps to press for a new eviction moratorium.
“Get better lawyers,” Pelosi said in scolding the Biden administration for initially taking the Constitution seriously.
So much for respecting the Constitution’s system of checks and balances and the rule of law. The progressive left believes that the ends justify the means in obtaining their desired outcome.
Biden buckled under the pressure, as he so often does. His CDC issued what it claimed was a new, more targeted eviction moratorium order in early August. The new moratorium order applied to evictions of any qualified tenants who live in a county or territory that is experiencing substantial or high levels of COVID–19 transmission and who make certain declarations relating to their financial circumstances.
However, in practice, the CDC was simply putting old wine in new bottles. At the time that the CDC issued its new order, which carried criminal penalties for violations, its reach covered areas where approximately 90% of the U.S. population lives.
The Supreme Court majority was not fooled. “Apart from slightly narrowing the geographic scope, the new moratorium is indistinguishable from the old,” the majority opinion said.
The majority found that the CDC stretched the provision in a decades-old health statute it was relying upon for its regulatory authority beyond any reasonable bounds. “Regulations under this authority have generally been limited to quarantining infected individuals and prohibiting the import or sale of animals known to transmit disease,” the majority opinion declared.
“Since that provision’s enactment in 1944, no regulation premised on it has even begun to approach the size or scope of the eviction moratorium,” the majority observed. “And it is further amplified by the CDC’s decision to impose criminal penalties of up to a $250,000 fine and one year in jail on those who violate the moratorium.”
Progressive leftists characterize people as either oppressors or oppressed, defined according to group identities such as race or class. They rarely look at individuals as distinct human beings with their own unique needs, circumstances, and aspirations. Under the progressive left’s vision of the world, all landlords are bad, and all tenants are good. But that is not the real world.
There are plenty of landlords just scraping by who need the monthly revenue from rents to prevent foreclosure and deterioration of their properties. Brookings estimated that about “40 percent of residential property units are owned by individual investor landlords. Among those owning residential investment property, roughly a third are from low- to moderate-income households; property income constitutes up to 20 percent of their total household income.”
There are also plenty of tenants who have been gaming the system with devastating consequences for their landlords. A Holocaust-survivor landlord, for example, found herself homeless after the tenant to whom she had rented her Hamptons house in New York refused to vacate after the tenant’s lease expired this past June. The tenant stayed put, claiming that she was protected by New York’s own pandemic-related eviction ban.
Blue state New York also happens to be one of the states that have failed most miserably to distribute monies they received from the federal government to help needy tenants having trouble paying their rent. The $46.5 billion federal rental aid program was funded as part of two federal pandemic relief packages that Congress has passed during the last year. Only about 11 percent of the money Congress allocated for distribution by states and localities – $5.1 billion – has reached the intended beneficiaries through the end of July. New York lags far behind in distribution of the relief money it received.
Finally, the progressive left’s ‘rules for thee, but not for me’ brand of hypocrisy is outrageous. Exhibit A is Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, the far left “Squad” member from Michigan. Tlaib lashed out at the Supreme Court’s eviction moratorium decision, which she claimed, without any evidence, “will evict millions of people from their homes amid a growing pandemic.”
Tlaib accused the Supreme Court of protecting “the interests of the rich and corporations at the expense of workers.” Tlaib checked her compassion for tenants struggling to pay their rent last year at the door, however, when she put on her landlord hat and collected rent from her own tenants.