Biden’s Eviction Moratorium Defies the Rule of Law
The day before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) imposed a new eviction moratorium last week, the Biden administration conceded that the agency had no legal authority to do so. The fact that Joe Biden was unfazed by that crucial point does not bode well for a president who was supposed to restore respect for the rule of law.
“To date,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in an August 2 press release, “CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and her team have been unable to find legal authority for a new, targeted eviction moratorium.” Senior presidential adviser Gene Sperling used nearly identical language at a press briefing the same day, saying the CDC had concluded it lacked legal authority “even for a more targeted eviction moratorium that would focus just on counties with higher rates of COVID spread.”
Walensky nevertheless issued such an order, covering about 90 percent of the country, the following evening, calling it “the right thing to do to keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings where COVID-19 spreads.” The idea that government officials can ignore the law as long as they are doing “the right thing,” long favored by authoritarians and demagogues, is anathema in a constitutional republic.
The CDC’s justification for its eviction moratorium, which it first issued last September, was troubling from the beginning, relying on an alarmingly broad reading of the Public Health Service Act. According to the CDC, Congress gave it limitless power to order Americans around, as long as the avowed goal is preventing the spread of a communicable disease.
While a few federal courts sided with the CDC, two-thirds of the decisions said the agency did not have the authority it claimed. When one of those cases made its way to the Supreme Court in June, it was clear at least five justices agreed with that conclusion.
The Court declined to lift a stay on a federal judge’s ruling against the CDC. But Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who provide
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