Rep. Cori Bush (D-Minn.) slept on the steps of the Capitol Friday night.
The congresswoman—accompanied by fellow Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and activists—spent the night on the Capitol steps to bring attention to the millions of Americans who face eviction if a moratorium implemented by the CDC in March 2020 is allowed to expire at midnight on Saturday. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, more than 11 million Americans are behind on rent, and many have not received federal rent assistance that was passed by Congress.
The White House had extended the deadline for the moratorium to July 31, and a Supreme Court decision in late June affirmed that it could remain in place until then. But Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a Trump appointee who voted to keep the moratorium in place, wrote in a concurring opinion that to push the deadline on evictions any farther, Congress would need to pass legislation to that effect. And the Biden administration announced Thursday that it was relying on Congress to do so “without delay.”
Bush, who experienced eviction and being unhoused before she ran for Congress, called for the House to reconvene and pass legislation to extend the deadline, as the moratorium has kept millions of Americans housed and secure through pandemic layoffs, high unemployment rates, and economic uncertainty.
“The House is at recess. People are on vacations. How are we on vacation when we have millions of people who could start to be evicted tonight?” Bush said in an interview with CNN, still standing on the steps of the Capitol Saturday afternoon. “There are people already receiving and have received pay or vacate notices that will have them out on tomorrow. People are already in a position where they need help—our most vulnerable, our most marginalized, those who are in need.”
The Democrats tried to rally the votes on Friday in a last-minute scramble after Biden’s announcement. Majority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) then made little more than a symbolic gesture toward passing the bill on Friday evening, asking for unanimous consent to take up and pass an extension. But unanimous consent only needs one member to say no to table the matter, and that is what, predictably, happened. And according to Politico, at least a dozen other Democrats told leadership that they opposed the bill. So the House adjourned and is scheduled to be in recess for the next six weeks. The Senate is still in session—attempting to pass an infrastructure bill—but getting the bill passed in that chamber would likely be difficult.
Pelosi tried to justify the House’s failure to pass the bill on Friday by saying they “only learned about this yesterday,” so she called on Biden and the CDC to extend the deadline. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) also critiqued the White House’s last-minute announcement but also placed some of the blame on Congress.
“Everybody knew this was coming,” she told reporters Friday, standing alongside Bush. “We were sounding the alarm about this issue. The court order was not yesterday. The court order was not Monday. The court order was about a month ago. We had Financial Services hearings about it. Members were ringing the alarm to the administration about it, asking for all of us—Congress and the White House—to move on this sooner.”
Ocasio-Cortez went on to say that it is wrong to allow evictions while tens of billions of dollars in rental assistance, which would help renters keep their homes, have yet to be disbursed. And, she said, it’s especially dangerous to let the deadline lapse when the CDC announced mere days ago that the Delta variant of Covid-19 is many times more contagious than the original coronavirus.
“Extending the eviction moratorium is a matter of life and death for the communities we represent,” Reps. Pressley, Bush, Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, and other progressives wrote in a letter to Biden and the CDC director, urging them to “leverage every authority available” to extend the deadline. “We implore you to act with the urgency this moment demands.”
But unless that happens, Bush says she’s ready to spend another night on the Capitol steps.
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