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Pelosi, Democrats call on Biden to extend eviction ban

Published on August 2, 2021 12:56 AM

by By LISA MASCARO

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WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic leaders called on the Biden administration to immediately extend the nation's eviction moratorium, calling it a "moral imperative" to prevent Americans from being put out of their homes during a COVID-19 surge.

An estimated 3.6 million Americans are at risk of eviction, some as soon as Monday.

Congress was unable to pass legislation swiftly to extend the ban, which expired at midnight Saturday, and the Democratic leaders said in a statement that it was now up to President Joe Biden's administration to act. They called on the administration to extend the moratorium through Oct. 18.

"Action is needed, and it must come from the Administration," Pelosi said Sunday night in the statement signed by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Whip James E. Clyburn and Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark. "Science and reason demand that they must also extend the moratorium in light of the delta variant. Doing so is a moral imperative."

The White House, which has urged localities and states to tap aid already approved by Congress, had no direct response to the Democrats' call for action.

Some Democratic lawmakers said they were caught by surprise last Thursday when Biden announced that he would not extend the moratorium again in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that suggested congressional action was necessary for another extension. Lawmakers were left with only days to act before the ban expired, creating frustration and anger and exposing a rare rift with the administration.

On Sunday, hours after the expiration, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said that Democrats had to "call a spade a spade" and pointed to her own party.

"We cannot in good faith blame the Republican Party when House Democrats have a majority," the progressive congresswoman said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Ocasio-Cortez and other Democrats joined Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., who camped outside the Capitol over the weekend in protest.

On Saturday, with no legislative action pending, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the chair of the Financial Services Committee, told CNN, "We thought that the White House was in charge."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put the ban in place as part of the COVID-19 response when jobs shifted and many workers lost income. The ban was intended to hold back the spread of the virus among people put out on the streets and into shelters.

Another source of frustration for lawmakers is the slow pace of pandemic relief already approved by Congress — nearly $47 billion in federal housing aid to the states — getting to renters and landlords owed payments. Biden has called on local governments to "take all possible steps" to disburse the funds immediately.

"There can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic," Biden said in a statement Friday.

Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, appeared on "Fox News Sunday" to echo that sentiment. "No landlord should evict without seeking that rental assistance, and states and localities need to get that money out urgently, and they can do that," Deese said.

Landlords also have argued for speeding up the distribution of rental assistance and opposed another extension of the moratorium...