Overnight, millions of Americans became at risk of being evicted as a pause on evictions protecting Americans from losing their homes lapsed, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) says that is due to the White House not being “forthright” and moderate Democrats in Congress who refused to support an extension of the eviction ban.
Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, Ocasio-Cortez said the White House was not “forthright” when it waited until two days before the eviction moratorium expired to announce that it was relying on Congress to pass legislation extending the deadline. Congress then adjourned Friday without extending the deadline, which lapsed at midnight on Sunday.
Ocasio-Cortez has been advocating for the extension since a Supreme Court opinion in late June appeared to tie the White House’s hands, saying that Congress must pass legislation to push the deadline any farther past July 31. So far, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has tried to blame Republicans for the failure to pass an extension, but Ocasio-Cortez said, “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 congresswoman explained, saying, “The House and House leadership had the opportunity to vote to extend the moratorium… There was, frankly, a handful of conservative Democrats in the House that threatened to get on planes, rather than hold this vote.”
CNN's @jaketapper: Who's to blame for the eviction moratorium expiring?
Rep. @AOC : "There was, frankly, a handful of conservative Democrats in the House that threatened to get on planes rather than hold this vote and we have to really just call a spade a spade." #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/FXW7o1SIOD
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) August 1, 2021
She also called out the Biden administration for its lack of transparency, which she said put Congress in a bind. “We asked the Biden administration for their stance, and they were not being really forthright about that advocacy and that request until the day before the House adjourned,” she said. “The House was put into a needlessly difficult situation.”
Ocasio-Cortez has spent the weekend in D.C., where Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) slept on the Capitol steps overnight Friday to protest the House’s lack of action.
“The House is at recess. People are on vacations,” Bush said in an interview with CNN on Saturday. “How are we on vacation when we have millions of people who could start to be evicted tonight?”
The House still has time to act and pass a bill extending the eviction ban, although getting that legislation through the Senate, where the Democrats have a very narrow majority, might be tougher than passing it in the House. Ocasio-Cortez said on Sunday that House members have been instructed they may need to return to the Capitol with just 24-hours notice because the Senate is working on an infrastructure bill, so they could also be called back to extend the eviction moratorium.
“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.
Another issue affecting renters is the fact that although Congress allocated tens of billions of dollars to go toward rental assistance for renters and landlords, states and local governments have not yet given out the vast majority of funds—only $3 billion of $46 billion has been disbursed.
“Each individual governor is responsible for establishing these programs,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “I think that, in some states, governors and state administrations might be slow-walking this process to get it out. In other states, [it’s] the administrative burden of setting it up.”
But as long as that money is unavailable to renters and landlords, the congresswoman said, it’s wrong to start removing people from their homes. “We’re at a point where, frankly, those state governments need to get it together,” she said. “But we cannot kick people out of their homes when our end of the bargain has not been fulfilled.”