Eviction moratoriums and the blame game
or: Congressional Democrats are incompetent and shameful
Due to the impact of COVID, there has been an eviction moratorium in the United States, imposed as an emergency action. This had been periodically renewed. That moratorium expired at the end of July.
This date should not have been a surprise. A month earlier, on June 29, the Supreme Court ruled that the existing moratorium could not be renewed, and only declined to strike it down immediately based on the scheduled expiration date of July 31 and concerns of an orderly wind-down. Congress and the President had a month to do something else, if a majority supported that.
What they proceeded to do was a month of nothing, followed by 3 days of the most pathetic blame-pushing I can remember occurring within a political party. On Thursday, July 29, the Biden administration made a statement asking Congress to extend the moratorium. This was doomed to fail, as there is not majority support in Congress for this action.
Congressional Democrats used this last-minute statement to blame Biden, as 13-term Democratic congressman Jim McGovern said “I quite frankly wish he had asked us sooner.” After Democrats made a token unanimous consent request, Maxine Waters blamed Pelosi for bad parliamentary tactics.
AOC and The Squad also tried to pass the blame back to Biden, this time for not doing what the Supreme Court recently and explicitly said he could not do. This was not sufficient for some Twitter personalities on the left, with The Daily Poster saying they should have threatened to withhold votes. Cori Bush demanded that Congress return to session, presumably to do nothing a second time.
Theoretically, somebody should have blamed the Republicans. Nancy Pelosi kind-of did this on Twitter, but it was lost in mockery of claiming her one day half-hearted effort was a “relentless campaign”.
To point out some of the things that Congressional Democrats did not do:
They did not submit a bill to extend the moratorium for an up-or-down vote.
They did not try to write any other bill to deal with evictions.
They did not even hold committee hearings. (the Rules Committee doesn’t count)
They also did nothing to solve the issues with the existing emergency program to combat evictions, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. This program was authorized in December and intended to provide financial assistance to prevent people from being evicted for non-payment of rent. In many jurisdictions, it has not even started functioning.
Let me be clear. I think that at this point extending an eviction moratorium is a terrible idea. Between the vaccine and advances in treatment, COVID simply isn’t dangerous enough to justify disrupting people’s lives. Despite attempts to paint landlords as a faceless corporation, 40% of rental units are owned by individuals (ref). And since the moratorium has to end sometime, it should end in the middle of summer rather than the middle of winter.
Many people, despite saying they want a temporary measure, are actually arguing for a permanent eviction ban. You can certainly find people who make this argument explicitly on Twitter in various forms. It suggests, in various forms, that the current moratoriums don’t go far enough, that housing is a human right, that the concept of eviction is racist and sexist, that it’s immoral to think about landlords while children are suffering, that we need to redistribute wealth, or any of a dozen other slogans.
As policy, a permanent eviction ban is so blatantly stupid I doubt any serious reader of this blog will consider supporting it, so I will not waste time explaining why. If you think I’m attacking a straw man, I note this Twitter mega-thread (it calls evictions “apartheid” in tweet 48/53). Or take gadfly House candidate Rebecca Parson, who demands “reparations for racist housing policy”.
In conclusion, the Democrats have managed to engage in good governance: they have declined to pass a bad policy. The party has presented a united front in claiming that this was in fact bad governance by them, and have gone out of their way to blame each other for it.
And the Democrats are supposed to be the smart party …