WASHINGTON (AP) – The rare clash this week between the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress over an expired eviction moratorium could become a blueprint for even bigger battles that lie ahead.
When a new generation of progressive lawmakers found allies in the Congressional leadership, they insisted that the White House pay them attention. Their tactics, including a high-profile, multi-day protest on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, ultimately forced the government to find a new way to keep most of the renters in their homes.
After President Joe Biden spent his first few months in office courting moderate Democrats – and even some Republicans – they have largely held back, many progressives say the deference is over. And with the Democrats running extremely tight margins in Congress, the White House may need to pay more attention to the Democratic left wing in the coming weeks, especially as the government’s infrastructure package intensifies.
“Hopefully this has shown not only the leadership, the caucus, but also our progressive family that we will not give in when we say we will not give in,” said Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., Who staged the sit -in around the clock on the Capitol stairs.
While Washington progressives are feeling encouraged, there are warning signs. Ohio voters on Tuesday turned down a congressional candidate who was enthusiastically endorsed by progressive leader Senator Bernie Sanders. This followed similar setbacks for the left in elections earlier this year in New York City and Virginia.
However, this week’s progressive revolt was marked by Bush’s protest.
By the time she took her chair onto the Capitol steps on Saturday, the House of Representatives had already tried – and failed – to pass a swiftly drafted bill to prevent the moratorium from lapsing. House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer told Biden the day before that Congress could not come up with a legislative solution.
As Bush began her vigil, people flocked to the steps to join the new lawmaker who spoke passionately of her own time, a young mother of two walking the streets around what is now St. Louis in her Ford Bronco lived. District of Congress.
Her visitors included Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York, whose presence attracted media attention.
A quieter lobby campaign also took place. Over several days, Pelosi rushed into a series of phone calls with Biden and senior White House officials, insisting that the government act unilaterally and focus on a new moratorium directly tied to the public health emergency and the Delta variant is.
“She said things like, ‘You can, I don’t know what you’re talking about. You won’t be stopped, ‘”Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., Chair of the Financial Services Committee, told Pelosi.
“We said, ‘Mr. President, you have to step on the plate, ‘”Waters said.
White House officials were very aware that many of those affected by the moratorium were Biden’s voters and recognized the need to keep the Liberals on the party line.
But many in the administration were irritated by claims that they had failed to take aggressive action to stop the evictions. A senior White House official who requested anonymity to discuss talks with the president said her efforts had been a hive of energy and activity over several months.
The first challenge was that the Trump administration’s rental aid guidelines required extensive documentation and hampered the entire program. Biden’s team, after consulting lawyers, academics, and housing experts, updated the guidelines several times to make it easier for states and cities to manage with updated guidelines on February 22, May 7, and June 24.
When the Supreme Court suggested that the approval of Congress would be required to extend a moratorium, the White House reached out to the local court system in which the evictions are taking place. Their goal was to get local judges to make efforts to obtain the rental subsidy before authorizing evictions, the official said.
But after days of bad headlines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new eviction moratorium that would last until October 3rd. The ban announced on Tuesday could help keep millions in their homes as the delta variant of the coronavirus has spread and states are slow to release federal rental subsidies.
The senior White House official said the president had been told that a national moratorium was likely to be unconstitutional, but Biden continued to direct authorities to look into the matter and look for ways to keep people in their homes. One of the keys was a targeted and dynamic moratorium – that is, evictions can resume with a sufficient reduction in COVID-19 infections.
This differed from the previous nationwide moratorium, which was set regardless of the trends of the pandemic.
“This will also be a temporary solution, and a longer-term solution will require legislative action,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday. “But (Biden’s) message to anyone who has been a passionate advocate is that they share their concern, they share their commitment.”
Up to this point, Biden’s agenda has focused on working the entire corridor with the bipartisan infrastructure deal, including the satisfaction of moderate Democratic senators. The president has yet to fully address progressive priorities such as climate change, voting rights and student debt.
But the eviction moratorium was an undeniable victory for the progressives – and proof that their clout is being poured into a budget package that is particularly central to Biden’s promise to reshape the government’s relationship with its citizens.
“Today is important because I hope it marks a turning point in this White House’s view of progressives,” said Rep. Mondaire Jones, DN.Y. “We are ready to use our energies and activism in close coordination with grassroots activists and people in this country in good conscience to do the right thing for the American people.”
For the future, the government knows that the end of the most recent eviction moratorium will be a problem if the aid is still in the state coffers.
The White House Home Affairs Council and Gene Sperling, the official overseeing coronavirus aid programs, are meeting with all departments to find more ways to keep tenants in their homes. And on Friday, White House Advisers Susan Rice and Sperling will hold a cabinet-level meeting with the ultimate goal of getting state aid to reduce the number of potential evictions after the new moratorium ends.
Meanwhile, in Congress, Waters said she had prepared a package of housing bills that she would insist on being included in Biden’s infrastructure project.
Associate press journalists Zeke Miller, Rick Gentilo and Derek Karikari contributed to this report.