The Supreme Court on Thursday overturned the Biden administration’s eviction moratorium, ruling that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention overstepped its authority in issuing the ban, CBS News reports.
The court’s conservative justices issued an unsigned opinion finding that the CDC “has exceeded its authority."
"It would be one thing if Congress had specifically authorized the action that the CDC has taken. But that has not happened," the opinion said. "Instead, the CDC has imposed a nationwide moratorium on evictions in reliance on a decades-old statute that authorizes it to implement measures like fumigation and pest extermination. It strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the CDC the sweeping authority that it asserts."
"If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue,” the court said, “Congress must specifically authorize it."
The Biden administration said it was “disappointed” in the ruling.
"In light of the Supreme Court ruling and the continued risk of COVID-19 transmission, President Biden is once again calling on all entities that can prevent evictions – from cities and states to local courts, landlords, Cabinet Agencies – to urgently act to prevent evictions,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
Justice Stephen Breyer warned that the ruling could exacerbate the pandemic in a dissent joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
"The CDC targets only those people who have nowhere else to live, in areas with dangerous levels of community transmission," Breyer. "These people may end up with relatives, in shelters, or seeking beds in other congregant facilities where the doubly contagious Delta variant threatens to spread quickly."
Breyer also bristled at the court using the “shadow docket,” which allows the court to issue short unsigned opinions without going through standard procedures, to rule on the moratorium.
"These questions call for considered decisionmaking, informed by full briefing and argument," he wrote. "Their answers impact the health of millions. We should not set aside the CDC's eviction moratorium in this summary proceeding. The criteria for granting the emergency application are not met."
Billions in rental aid unused:
The Trump administration first used the CDC’s public health authority to ban evictions last year after Congress failed to act. The Biden administration extended it and the Supreme Court allowed it to continue in June, but Justice Brett Kavanaugh warned that the CDC has exceeded its authority. Biden planned to let the ban expire but reversed course after pressure from Democrats in Congress.
Biden admitted the ban was unlikely to be upheld but "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."
But the rollout has been slow. Congress approved more than $20 billion in rental aid in December and another $20+ billion in March but only about $5 billion has been distributed as states and local governments struggle to set up systems to help.