US Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said that Democrats cannot “in good faith blame the Republican Party” for the end of the federal eviction moratorium because Democrats hold the majority in the House of Representatives, suggesting that her fellow lawmakers have put millions of renters at the risk of eviction.
The nationwide moratorium on evictions expired at midnight on Saturday amid a spike in coronavirus infections across the United States, dealing a blow to President Joe Biden, who on Thursday requested Congress to extend the 11-month ban on removals.
The moratorium was first implemented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in September 2020 to prevent homelessness during the pandemic. It was established to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by banning the eviction of renters who could not pay their rents.
"I think there's a couple of issues here. First of all, you are absolutely correct in that the House and House leadership had the opportunity to vote to extend the moratorium, and there were many, and there was, frankly, a handful of conservative Democrats in the House that threatened to get on planes rather than hold this vote," Ocasio-Cortez told CNN on Sunday when asked who is to blame for the moratorium expiring.
"And we have to really just call a spade a spade. We cannot in good faith blame the Republican Party when House Democrats have a majority," the progressive lawmaker added.
Democratic leaders in the House scrambled throughout the Friday to garner enough votes to extend the CDC order beyond the July 31 deadline. But Republicans rejected a bill that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was trying to pass and the lower chamber finally adjourned for the August recess.
Prior to the vote, Reps. Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush stood outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office and demanded that Congress stay in session until an extension was passed.
Several progressive House lawmakers slept outside the Capitol on Friday to protest the moratorium's expiration.
Ocasio-Cortez on Sunday slammed the White House for waiting until three days before the moratorium's expiration date to call for an extension.
“There is something to be said for the fact that this court order came down on the White House a month ago, and the White House waited until the day before the House adjourned to release a statement asking on Congress to extend the moratorium,” Ocasio-Cortez said, referring to a Supreme Court order on the moratorium.
“I sit on the [House] Financial Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over housing. ... We asked the Biden administration about their stance, and they were not being really forthright about that advocacy and that request until the day before the House adjourned, and so the House was put into a, I believe, a needlessly difficult situation,” she added.
The Democratic lawmaker said the House of Representatives should reconvene to extend the moratorium. The House adjourned for a weeks-long recess on Friday.
“The fact of the matter is that the problem is here. The House should reconvene and call this vote and extend the moratorium. There's about 11 million people that are behind on their rent at risk of eviction. That's one out of every six renters in the United States,” she said.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky had already made it clear last month that the July extension would be the final one.
Following the defeat of the moratorium in the House, Pelosi blamed the failure on the last-minute notice from the White House that Congress had to fix the problem through the legislative process.
Housing advocates are concerned that delays in federal rental assistance mean tenants will suddenly owe months of rents they cannot afford to pay. States with weaker renter protections, they warn, could be looking at an "avalanche" of evictions after the moratorium expires Saturday night.
The CDC moratorium was far from perfect. Many renters were not aware of their rights or were entirely bereft of any protections because states and local governments implemented the federal program differently. Many landlords have already filed eviction cases with the courts.