Turning back to the same courtroom where a Donald Trump-appointed judge blocked an earlier eviction moratorium, a coalition of Alabama realtors and landlords filed an emergency motion to stop the Biden administration’s Centers on Disease Control and Prevention from offering further relief to tenants wracked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Wednesday, the motion filed by a coalition led by the Alabama Association of Realtors cast the CDC’s eviction order—announced on Tuesday—as an about-face from their statements in court about the agency’s intentions. In May, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich blocked an earlier CDC order as “unambiguously foreclosed by the plain language of the Public Health Service Act.” The Biden administration appealed that ruling and obtained a stay of Friedrich’s ruling. The Supreme Court declined to intervene from there because, in the words of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the “CDC plans to end the moratorium in only a few weeks.”
As the deadline loomed, the delta variant raged, and the CDC determined on Aug. 3th that more relief was needed.
“This moratorium is the right thing to do to keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings where COVID-19 spreads,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky wrote in a statement on Tuesday. ” It is imperative that public health authorities act quickly to mitigate such an increase of evictions, which could increase the likelihood of new spikes in SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Such mass evictions and the attendant public health consequences would be very difficult to reverse.”
Behind the stated justification, the realtors and landlords claimed politics was at play.
“Taking a cue from Justice Kavanaugh’s controlling concurrence, Congress attempted to pass legislation, but failed,” their emergency motion states. “After Congress’s failure to extend the moratorium, the Speaker of the House and other Representatives demanded that the CDC extend the moratorium through executive action anyway. Thus began what became a tidal wave of political pressure put upon the CDC.”
For the realtors, the pressure was encapsulated by a tweet by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), daring the agency to take action.
“Who is going to stop them? Who is going to penalize them?” Waters asked.
The realtors claim that the CDC’s new order is practically the same as the one the federal judge previously blocked.
“The CDC’s semantic recasting of the latest extension—which covers 90% of renters across the country, while leaving intact its ability to ratchet up to 100%—is a distinction without a difference because it has no bearing on the CDC’s legal authority,” the realtors wrote in their 16-page motion.
The realtors quote President Joe Biden’s remarks suggesting that the moratorium extension would be worthwhile even if ultimately found unconstitutional by the courts.
“Well, look, the courts made it clear that the existing moratorium was not constitutional,” Biden said on Tuesday, adding later that “by the time it gets litigated, it will probably give some additional time while we’re getting that $45 billion out to people who are, in fact, behind in the rent and don’t have the money.”
The White House did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
Read the motion below:
[image via John Moore/Getty Images]
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