The Supreme Court voted yesterday (Aug. 26) to resume evictions across the country, which have been largely halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ruling blocked the Biden administration from enacting a temporary eviction ban extension, which would have protected roughly 3.5 million Americans from being evicted from their homes.
“Congress was on notice that a further extension would almost surely require new legislation, yet it failed to act in the several weeks leading up to the moratorium’s expiration,” the court wrote in an unsigned, eight-page opinion.
“If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it,” the court said.
The three liberal justices dissented publicly, citing the spike in Covid-19 cases and the Delta variant.
This latest round of litigation was prompted by the version of the moratorium rolled out by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on August 3, days after the last iteration of the moratorium had expired.
Landlord groups challenging the eviction ban pointed to a concurrence written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh when the earlier version of the moratorium was before the Supreme Court in June. Kavanaugh joined four other justices in letting the moratorium survive then, but he said he was only doing so because it was scheduled to expire on July 31 and said Congress had to act in order to extend it.
The landlords accused the Biden administration of “gamesmanship” for ultimately reviving the moratorium after several top administration officials said, in the wake of Kavanaugh’s concurrence, that they did not think the Supreme Court would uphold an extension of the moratorium.
Thursday, the court pointed to the “decades-old statute” the CDC was relying on to defend the moratorium and the court said that it “strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the CDC the sweeping authority that it asserts.”
Thursday’s order in the eviction moratorium is the second time this week that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority has sided with those challenging Biden administration policies. On Tuesday, the court effectively ordered the revival of the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy that Biden had sought to end earlier this year.
Together, the two cases previewed what will likely be years of Supreme Court actions that curtail Biden’s agenda.
The ruling marks the latest pandemic-era policy to come to an end. On Friday (Aug. 27), the Federal Reserve suggested it would start pulling back on the bond-buying programs it imposed last year amidst COVID-19.