The Biden administration on Thursday extended a nationwide ban on evictions through the end of July, as renters recover from the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ban, put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was set to expire on June 30. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Thursday signed the extension until July 31.
The moratorium is meant to help combat the spread of the coronavirus by keeping people unable to pay rent in their homes rather than in a more crowded setting, such as a homeless shelter, according to the CDC.
This is the third time the CDC order has been extended since it first went into effect in September.
The White House said this will be the “final” extension, but announced a series of actions it would take to help state and local governments prevent evictions, including accelerating the distribution of billions of dollars in emergency rental assistance and encouraging anti-eviction diversion practices to state courts.
The move comes after Biden faced pressure from congressional Democrats and housing advocates to extend the moratorium. A group of 41 Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday argued in a letter to Biden that evictions would “take lives and push households deeper into poverty” and that the issue is an “urgent matter of health, racial, and economic justice.”
Several Democrats hailed the Biden administration’s action on Thursday and thanked the White House for moving swiftly on the matter.
Yet not everyone was pleased with the outcome. Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York tweeted: “These are short term solutions for a long term problem. Evictions were harmful before the pandemic and will be harmful after.”
Several progressive Democrats on Tuesday called on President Joe Biden and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to extend a federal eviction moratorium that is set to expire on June 30.
In a letter signed by 41 members of Congress and led by Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Cori Bush of Missouri, and Jimmy Gomez of California, the lawmakers urged the White House and CDC to “take action to prevent a historic wave of evictions and keep renters safely in their homes.” The letter was first reported by ABC News.
The group of House Democrats cited Census Bureau data that showed minority households, including Black, Latino, Asian and Indigenous, are more likely to be behind on their rent payments, arguing in support of the extension “to protect vulnerable renters” and “curtail the eviction crisis disproportionately impacting our communities of color.”
Around 7 million people are still behind on their rent, according to the Census Bureau.
The lawmakers also pointed to data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that found that communities with lower COVID-19 vaccination rates and higher cases happen to be more at risk of facing eviction.
“Allowing the moratorium to expire before vaccination rates increase in marginalized communities could lead to increased spread of, and deaths from, COVID-19,” they said in the letter.
“Evictions take lives and push households deeper into poverty, impacting everything from health outcomes to educational attainment,” they added. “The impact of the federal moratorium cannot be overstated, and the need to strengthen and extend it is an urgent matter of health, racial, and economic justice.”
Tenants struggling to pay their rent during the COVID-19 economic crisis were handed a lifeline in March 2020, when Congress first passed a federal eviction moratorium. The CDC then issued its own moratorium in September, which has since been extended twice. The current moratorium is set to expire at the end of the month.
Progressives have mounted a pressure campaign to get Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer off the bench while the Senate is still under Democratic control, which would clear the way for President Joe Biden to appoint his successor.
Eighteen legal academics endorsed an ad set to run in the New York Times on Friday, urging the 82-year-old Breyer to step down to avoid a possible scenario in which Republicans win the Senate in 2022 and block future judicial nominees put forth by Biden.
“It is time for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to announce his intent to retire,” reads the letter, signed by scholars at Harvard Law School, Yale Law School, the University of California-Berkeley School of Law, among others. “Breyer is a remarkable jurist, but with future control of a closely divided Senate uncertain, it is best for the country that President Biden have the opportunity to nominate a successor without delay.”
The news site Politico ran a full-page ad signed by more than a dozen major advocacy groups on Wednesday, which likewise called on Breyer to retire. Demand Justice, Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, Working Families Party and Sunrise Movement were among the 13 progressive organizations that signed on to the statement, first reported by The Huffington Post.
“If Breyer were replaced by an additional ultra-conservative justice, an even further-right Supreme Court would leave our democracy and the rights of marginalized communities at even greater risk,” the groups said in the ad.
“For the good of the country, now is the time to step aside,” the ad concludes.
Renewed calls for Breyer’s retirement come in response to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell shutting down hopes for Biden to fill a potential Supreme Court vacancy if Republicans regain the Senate next year. In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday, the GOP leader said it is “highly unlikely” that he would allow Biden to confirm a justice should a court seat open up under his Senate majority leadership.
Alarmed by that possibility, progressives are demanding that Breyer, the oldest Supreme Court justice, leave the bench.
“Anyone who still doubted that Stephen Breyer not retiring could end in disaster should pay attention to Mitch McConnell’s recent comments,” Demand Justice Executive Director Brian Fallon said in a statement. “If Republicans regain control of the Senate before Breyer’s replacement is confirmed, the Court’s legitimacy and our democracy will be at even greater risk.”
McConnell’s blocking of Garland: ‘The single most consequential thing I’ve done’
After Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, McConnell famously blocked then-President Barack Obama’s pick to replace him, Merrick Garland.
The top Republican denied Garland a hearing or vote for his confirmation, leaving the seat empty until President Donald Trump won the 2016 election and took office. As Senate majority leader, McConnell advanced Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch, to the Supreme Court in April 2017 – more than a year after the vacancy opened up.
The move sparked outrage among Democrats, yet McConnell has lauded the effort as “the single most consequential thing I’ve done in my time as majority leader of the Senate.”
Under Trump, McConnell ushered in two more Supreme Court justices, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, cementing a 6-3 conservative majority on the bench. The newly appointed justices replaced retired Justice Anthony Kennedy and the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, respectively.
McConnell is now signaling that if the GOP takes back the Senate next year and he once again becomes majority leader in 2023, he would rely on the same tactic to prevent a Biden nominee for the Supreme Court from moving forward.
“McConnell isn’t just saying the quiet part out loud – he’s shouting it in the face of Justice Breyer and Congressional Democrats and daring them to do something about it,” Aaron Belkin, director of Take Back the Court, another progressive group that endorsed the ad, said in a statement to Insider.
“At this point Democrats only have two choices: expand the Court or accept that Republicans will get to make the rules in perpetuity no matter how unpopular they are,” he added.
Breyer isn’t commenting publicly
Since Biden was sworn in and Democrats won the Senate in January, progressives have called for Breyer’s retirement to ensure that a new liberal justice will sit on the bench for decades to come.
Appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, Breyer has served for 27 years on the nation’s highest court. The current Supreme Court term ends in just a few weeks but Breyer has not yet publicly weighed in on his retirement.
Recently, he stressed the importance of having an independent judiciary, potentially suggesting that he won’t make a decision based on politics.
“My experience of more than 30 years as a judge … has shown me that once men and women take the judicial oath – they take that oath to heart,” Breyer said during a virtual lecture in April at Harvard Law School. “They are loyal to the rule of law, not to the political party that helped to secure their appointment.”
“It is wrong to think of the court as just another political institution and it is doubly wrong to think of its members as junior league politicians,” he continued.
Some left-leaning congressional Democrats have also expressed their support for Breyer’s retirement in recent days. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York on Sunday told CNN that she agreed with fellow New York Rep. Mondaire Jones, who said Breyer should leave at the end of the court’s term.
“It is good to see even more progressive leaders step forward to say that Breyer needs to step down now to protect his legacy,” Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice, said in a statement.
Biden also faces pressure to fill a Supreme Court seat of his choice, previously promising on the campaign trail to put the first Black woman on the bench during his tenure. Yet White house press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in April that the president would not push Breyer to announce his retirement.
“He believes that’s a decision Justice Breyer will make when he decides it’s time to no longer serve on the Supreme Court,” she said.
Progressives argue that another conservative justice on the court would tilt its ideological balance even further to the right and bring decades of jurisprudence that may threaten their priorities, which include universal health care, voting rights, LGTBQ+ protections, and other issues.
“Leaving this Supreme Court seat up to Democrats’ chances in 2022 is dangerous and would threaten the lives of women, immigrants, a stable climate and the future of our generation,” Sunrise Movement said in a statement to Insider.
“However, my concern is that the actual plan, their starting offer that they presented, doesn’t have the numbers necessary to actually do what they say they wanted to do,” she said. “That’s why we’ve been on the side of pressuring the administration to be a little more ambitious.”
Ocasio-Cortez offered overall praise for Biden’s actions since taking office. “I do think that the Biden administration – President Biden – has definitely exceeded expectations that progressives had,” she said during a virtual town hall in response to a question from NY1 television.
She added: “I’ll be frank, I think a lot of us expected a much more conservative administration.”
It was still early to judge whether the Biden administration would be “keeping or raising its ambitions” with future legislation, she said.
Ocasio-Cortez’s comments echoed those made by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group that has called Biden’s massive infrastructure plan “a welcome first step.”
“To that end, we believe this package can be substantially larger in size and scope,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, caucus chair, said in a statement after Biden introduced the plan.
On the other side of the aisle, opponents have said Biden’s American Rescue Plan proposal included too much spending that ranged too far from traditional infrastructure.
Speaking on Fox Business on Friday, Sen. Ron Johnson said he supported fixing roads and bridges that have been “ignored for far too long,” according to a transcript provided by his office.
But he said, “they’re enacting their radical, left wing, socialist agenda.”
Other leading progressives have defended Biden wide-ranging approach. Sen. Bernie Sanders earlier this month said the country needed to invest in “human infrastructure.”
“Education. Health care. Child care. Good wages. Affordable prescriptions. That’s human infrastructure. Yes, we have got to rebuild this country’s crumbling infrastructure,” he told CNN.
Progressives have also sought more action on the climate crisis. Ocasio-Cortez on Friday again pushed for a Green New Deal, which she said could create millions of jobs. Earlier in the week, she and Sen. Ed Markey reintroduced their plan.
“Historically there has been this tension between environmental – this idea that we have to choose between environmental concerns or jobs or the economy,” Ocasio-Cortez said on Friday.
“You may hear on Fox News or from Republicans who are trying to scaremonger around climate, that stewarding our Earth and transitioning to renewal energies will destroy our economy and kill jobs,” she added.
Biden on Thursday will mark 100 days in office with an appearance in Georgia, the White House said. He’ll participate in a car rally and “highlight how he’s delivered on his promises to the American people,” according to Jen Psaki, press secretary.
President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package is on track to become the first major legislation of his administration. He’s touting it as a progressive achievement – and many progressives are on board with the sentiment.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday described the massive bill aimed at tackling the coronavirus pandemic’s economic fallout as “the most progressive piece of legislation in history.”
Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont and a leading champion for many of the progressive policies included in the bill, expressed a similar viewpoint over the weekend. He called the stimulus “the most significant piece of legislation to benefit working people in the modern history of this country” upon its passage in the Senate on Saturday.
Progressives, too, are taking credit for the bill. Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, called the stimulus a “truly progressive and bold package that delivers on its promise to put money directly in people’s pockets.”
“We take the win,” Jayapal told Politico’s Sarah Ferris on Capitol Hill on Monday. “We believe it’s our work that made it as progressive as it is.”
The legislation, which is due for a vote in the House this week, represents unity within the Democratic Party at the start of Biden’s presidency – a development that seemed unlikely a year ago.
Progressive voters weren’t firmly in Biden’s column. He is a centrist and they had set their hopes on more left-leaning candidates, including Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, for president. After Biden clinched the Democratic nomination, he continued to pitch himself as a moderate who would unite the left and right, leaving progressives worried about whether they’d have a seat at the table with him in the White House.
However, since taking office, Biden has worked with progressives and the White House has promoted an agenda consistent with many of the left’s policy ideas.
“Progressives should be very proud of this bill,” a senior Democratic aide told Insider. “This is an absolutely terrific piece of legislation and we’re going to continue to work very closely with the Biden administration to make sure we have an economy and a government that works for all of us and not just the top 1%.”
Some of the measures included in the $1.9 trillion stimulus package hailed by progressives are an expanded child tax credit, $1,400 direct payments, and housing and food assistance.
That said, progressives don’t view the legislation as perfect.
Warren called the bill “powerful” but emphasized that it is “just the start of what Congress can do for working families.”
Originally, Biden had included a provision that would have boosted the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 and had the backing of progressives. However, the Senate parliamentarian, who is responsible for setting the procedural rules of the chamber, ruled against its inclusion in the final bill.
Progressives had urged the White House to overrule the decision, but these calls went unheeded. Sanders then fought to add the minimum wage hike to the package through an amendment, but did not receive enough support from his Senate colleagues. Even eight Democrats voted no.
Some progressive Democrats in the House, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, criticized the changes in the Senate bill. Yet Biden on Saturday rejected the notion that progressives were upset. “They’re not frustrated,” Biden told reporters. “Bernie Sanders said this is the most progressive bill he’s ever seen passed since he’s been here.”
Psaki on Monday said that Biden remains committed to increasing the federal minimum wage, and progressives plan to hold him to it. Still, she reiterated that the White House is currently focused on making the stimulus package become law, and many congressional progressives say the same.
President Joe Biden is on course to sign a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan within days, marking his first major legislative achievement nearly two months into his administration.
The Senate approved the massive rescue package on Saturday after a marathon day of voting. Now the House is expected to vote on the bill in its final form late on Tuesday, after it makes a stop at the Rules Committee. Democrats are rushing to enact the bill ahead of a March 14 deadline for the end of enhanced unemployment benefits.
House Democrats hold a five-seat majority, the slimmest in decades for the lower chamber. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has vowed to approve the rescue bill quickly.
It would provide $1,400 stimulus payments for most taxpayers; $300 weekly federal jobless aid through early September; fund vaccine distribution and testing; an expanded child tax credit; and money for state and local governments.
However, the bill contains some notable differences from the one House Democrats cleared a week ago, which requires some finagling in the Rules Committee. The new legislation does not include a $15 minimum wage, after a Senate official ejected it last month, and it cuts federal unemployment benefits to $300 weekly instead of $400. The duration of unemployment benefits is actually longer than the House version of the bill, running through September 6, but shorter than an earlier Senate proposal to run through October 3.
Despite early concerns that these changes could prompt a revolt among progressives, they still appear to support the rescue package. Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said the final bill has “retained its core bold, progressive elements.”
“Importantly, despite the fact that we believe any weakening of the House provisions were bad policy and bad politics, the reality is that the final amendments were relatively minor concessions,” Jayapal said in a Saturday statement.
Jayapal also said in a tweet that she believed the stimulus serves as a “down-payment on the $3-to-$4.5 trillion in stimulus,” suggesting progressives will continue pressing for ambitious spending.
Biden said on Saturday that the federal government would start sending stimulus payments “this month” as he touted parts of the bill that are broadly popular with voters. He also said the legislation strongly resembles the initial one he proposed in early January.
“I don’t think any of the compromises have in any way fundamentally altered the essence of what I put in the bill in the first place,” Biden said on Saturday.
Progressive lawmakers such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ilhan Omar this weekend pointed out what they saw as shortcomings in the Senate’s revised COVID-19 relief bill, including the removal of a federal minimum wage hike to $15 per hour.
The $1.9 trillion package approved by the Senate on Saturday would provide essential aid, but didn’t go far enough, they said.
“We remain extremely disappointed that the minimum wage bill was not included. The minimum wage remains essential policy and we must deliver on this issue,” the Congressional Progressive Caucus said in a statement.
Omar said the bill as modified by the Senate offered aid to fewer Americans than the package signed by President Donald Trump in December.
“This is not the promise that we made. This is not why we are given the opportunity to be in the majority in the Senate and have the White House,” Omar said on CNN.
She added: “And so ultimately it is a failure when we compromise ourselves out of delivering on behalf of the American people and keeping our promises.”
Omar and Ocasio-Cortez also retweeted a thread from Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, in which the lawmaker questioned whether she could still support the bill when it returned to the House for a vote.
“It seems there’s never a ceiling for the rich when they want a tax cut. And never a floor for the poor when they need help,” Watson Coleman wrote on Twitter.
House leadership scheduled a vote on the Senate bill for Tuesday, with a plan to send it to President Joe Biden before unemployment benefits for millions expire on March 14.
“The House now hopes to have a bipartisan vote on this life-saving legislation and urges Republicans to join us in recognition of the devastating reality of this vicious virus and economic crisis and of the need for decisive action,” Nancy Pelosi, House speaker, said in a statement.
In the days before Saturday’s Senate vote, progressives in both chambers had decried the removal of minimum wage increases in the bill.
Senator Bernie Sanders on Friday made a last-ditch effort to include a $15 minimum wage amendment, which was rejected by his Senate colleagues. Sanders still called the bill “the most significant piece of legislation to benefit working people in the modern history of this country.”
Eight Democratic senators voted against Sanders’ amendment.
On Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez asked her followers to imagine “having the ganas to go home and ask minimum wage workers to support you after going back on your own documented stance to help crush their biggest chance at a wage hike during their longest drought of wage increases since the law’s very inception.”
She added: “Sin vergüenza,” which translates as “without shame.”
When a wing of progressives called on Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to force a Medicare For All vote in the House, it drew a line in the sand for people on the left. #ForceTheVote was an effort that intended to ostracize Republicans and centrist Democrats who don’t support an overhaul of our nation’s healthcare system. AOC didn’t think it was a good idea, noting that forcing a vote that doesn’t have a chance in the House, let alone the Senate, could only cause friction among Democrats and harm their cause.
This disagreement created a loud faction of progressives who are now anti-AOC. They are seemingly led by comedian-turned-political talk show host Jimmy Dore, who in December said that AOC is now “standing between you and healthcare,” and went on to call her a liar, gaslighter, and coward.
Unthinkably, given her standing as the highest profile progressive member of Congress, AOC saw her Twitter mentions flooded with hate-fueled banter and accusations of being a sellout and fraud.
She’ll be fine, of course, as that’s just part of her job. But the impulse from progressives to turn on their own – and for relatively dumb reasons – has become a baffling spectacle and a maddening trend that’s stalled real change. Instead of infighting and bickering, progressives need to take a step back and understand what the best path to progress is.
You stab my back, and I’ll stab yours
The 2020 Democratic primaries were heated. People who were passionate about a particular candidate would sometimes wade into insults and ridicule on social media. Just about every candidate had a small but loud faction of supporters who would do this, but for whatever reason, Bernie Sanders’ online faction got the most media attention. While Sanders continued to offer an inclusive agenda and even denounced the more annoying parts of his base, scores of liberals and progressives became turned off by even the thought of Sanders. They held this grudge despite his long-standing record on vital issues and humble demeanor.
This became clear when Sanders, as head of the Senate Budget Committee, asked Neera Tanden, Biden’s pick to lead the Office of Budget Management, to reflect on her own attacks on social media, including personal attacks she hurled at Bernie himself. Tanden apologized for her actions, but if you looked under any tweet about the exchange, you saw countless accusations of sexism on Bernie’s part, attacks on his character, and a general sense of pure hatred for the man.
This grudge against Bernie Sanders held by so-called progressives remains weird and a little bit sad, especially considering how long it’s been since the primaries. The disdain for the Vermont senator even affects the people he associates with. When MoveOn, a high-profile progressive advocacy organization, endorsed Nina Turner, a former Bernie Sanders surrogate, for Congress, it was met with a wave of displeasure.
The list of pointless grudges doesn’t stop there. I’ll be the first to admit that I was upset with Sen. Elizabeth Warren during the 2020 primaries.
I felt that she had undermined the progressive cause not just by promoting a misleading story that implied Sen. Bernie Sanders was sexist, but also by not corralling her supporters behind him when her campaign ran out of steam.
But now that a whole year has passed, it is easy to admit that Warren is a pivotal part of the progressive agenda and should be supported as such. Many progressives, though, simply can’t get over that grudge. She’s still a “snake” in too many people’s eyes.
These people are too petty to see that she’s fighting for everything they want, including universal healthcare, a $15 minimum wage, and a cancellation of student loan debt. It will be harder for progressives to accomplish those things if people who advocate for them aren’t supportive of the lawmakers who can make them happen. It’s not just Warren who’s been targeted by progressive grudges, either.
Like Sanders, Warren has fought for a slew of policies that progressives dream about, but for those who illogically consider them enemies of the progressive movement, that doesn’t matter.
As someone who spends a lot of time on Twitter pointing out the hypocrisies of politicians, I am not saying you shouldn’t be skeptical of them in general. Even trivial forms of ridicule aren’t so bad in the larger discourse. But people should save their real disdain for an actual policy or platform they disagree with, instead of hating on someone who’s on their side, and for some trivial thing that happened more than a year ago. Debate is fine and encouraged, but the shaming and booing of one’s own team is counter-productive.
Figuring out who the best options for progress are shouldn’t be nearly this complicated. Think of the things you support, and support the politicians who agree with you. Naturally, when different strategies towards progress are debated, things may get heated. You might grow weary of someone and have less tolerance for them. That’s totally fine, and normal even. But progressives holding these year-long grudges against other progressives can only hurt the ultimate goal.
I wish Bernie Sanders was the Democratic nominee in 2020 and I wish Elizabeth Warren, after realizing her campaign was toast, had done more to solidify his chances. But both of these officials, along with newly chastised-from-the-left AOC, have a moral fortitude that’s actually pretty rare in politics. They serve us, but we have a role to play in their success. We just have to be smart about it.