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Editorial: Democratic leaders dropped ball on evictions



Editorial: Democratic leaders dropped ball on evictions

Congress is entrusted by voters to do the people’s business.

Except when members of the party in power can’t get their act together in time to meet a deadline, nor gather enough votes to pass a particular measure in their favor.

Then the people’s business is outsourced.

It’s the Democratic way.

As The Hill reported, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) on Tuesday introduced a bill that would give the Department of Health and Human Services the unilateral power to impose a federal eviction moratorium in the interest of public health.

The usual progressive suspects were on hand, including Reps. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Mondaire Jones (N.Y.), Jimmy Gomez (Calif.) and Barbara Lee (Calif.) as well as Sen. Ed Markey (Mass.).

“An eviction moratorium is the difference between life and death for all of us,” Bush said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

But Congress shouldn’t paint itself as the ones handing out life jackets. We’re here because the eviction moratorium was set to expire on July 31, and the House of Representatives adjourned for August recess without passing an extension.

That life or death legislature could apparently take a backseat to a beach rental.

July 31 was a Saturday, and on Friday, Democratic leaders scurried to find enough votes to extend the eviction ban, with no luck.

That July deadline wasn’t a surprise — it had been known for weeks — but for Democrats, it was a revelation.

“We only learned of this yesterday,” Pelosi told reporters that Friday after the failed vote.

Bush gained national attention for staying on the Capitol steps to demand that the moratorium be extended either by the Biden administration or Congress.

Congress had the chance to extend it — but they couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to a deadline or caucus the issue before leaving for vacation. This is on them.

The CDC on Aug. 3 extended the moratorium two months, until Oct. 3, but three weeks later the Supreme Court struck down the move.

So here we are, with Tuesday’s introduction of the Keeping Renters Safe Act of 2021.

Warren also spoke at the event: “We are in a COVID crisis. … This pandemic is not over. Families, millions of people across this country are worried about getting sick. They are worried about your next paycheck. They are worried about trying to catch up financially for weeks or months without a paycheck.”

That would have been a great speech back in mid July on the floor of Congress.

Last week, Bush introduced the Emergency Rental Assistance Program Improvement Act of 2021, which is aimed at bettering the systems used to disperse federal rental aid to struggling tenants and landlords.

This is an excellent move — particularly for landlords, who have long gotten short shrift in the rental crisis. They, especially small landlords, are also struggling to survive.

But the move to give the HHS the unilateral power to impose an eviction moratorium is a bad one.

That’s something for our elected leaders to address. Yes, doing the people’s business is hard, time-consuming, tedious. But that doesn’t mean you should pass some of the work on to government agencies.

Bush noted, “Today we are continuing our historic shift in the way that we conduct the people’s business in Washington, D.C.”

Not for the better.

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