President Biden is pushing Congress for a second one-month extension of the moratorium on residential evictions, a long-shot request needed to buy time to stand up a $47 billion rental relief program plagued by delays and red tape.
The decision to throw responsibility to Congress — just two days before the freeze expires — took Democratic leadership by surprise, and a rushed attempt to pass an extension by a voice vote this week is expected to fail, according to several people close to the situation.
White House officials, under pressure from tenants’ rights groups, agreed to a one-month extension of the ban, which was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just ahead of its previous expiration date of June 30. The freeze is now set to expire on Saturday.
Last month, the Supreme Court rejected a challenge by landlords, saying it would allow the moratorium to continue until July 31, as planned, to give the Treasury Department and the states time to disburse cash to landlords to cover back rent accrued that tenants did not pay during the pandemic.
But Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote in a concurring opinion that any future extension of the moratorium would require Congressional action.
On Thursday, Mr. Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, citing the steep rise in coronavirus infections around the country, pressed Congress to extend the freeze for another month to avoid a health and eviction crisis.
“Given the recent spread of the Delta variant, including among those Americans both most likely to face evictions and lacking vaccinations, President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the C.D.C. to further extend this eviction moratorium,” she wrote in a statement. “Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available.”
Mr. Biden “calls on Congress to extend the eviction moratorium to protect such vulnerable renters and their families without delay,” she added.
The last-minute timing of the request virtually ensures such an effort will not succeed, Democratic congressional aides said. The one fast-track method of quickly passing an extension, through a procedure known as unanimous consent, can be blocked by a single dissenting vote.
“There’s no way I’m going to support this. It was a bad idea in the first place,” said Sen. Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, reflecting the view of many Republicans in the chamber. “Owners have the right to action. They need to have recourse for the nonpayment of rent.”
The Biden administration’s effort to head off a crisis when the federal moratorium expires gained modest momentum in June, with 290,000 tenants receiving $1.5 billion in pandemic relief, according to Treasury Department statistics released last week.
But the flow of cash provided under two pandemic relief packages remains sluggish and hampered by confusion at the state level, potentially endangering tenants who have fallen behind in their rent over the past year. So far, only about $3 billion of the $47 billion program has been allocated, assisting about 600,000 tenants.
In recent days, White House officials have been working the phones to pressure officials in New York, and other states that have not yet begun to allocate the aid, to move more quickly.
“There can be no excuse for any state or locality not to promptly deploy the resources that Congress appropriated to meet this critical need of so many Americans,” Ms. Psaki said.