Mr. Biden conceded on Tuesday that the new approach might be struck down by the courts as executive overreach. But he suggested the move could help buy the administration time as it tried to get states to disburse billions of dollars of aid to help renters meet their obligations to landlords.
Congress previously allocated $46.5 billion in rental assistance in two coronavirus relief packages, but only about $3 billion had been delivered to eligible households through June, according to Treasury Department data.
“Whether that option will pass constitutional measure with this administration, I can’t tell you. I don’t know,” Mr. Biden said of a new moratorium. “There are a few scholars who say it will and others who say it’s not likely to. But at a minimum, by the time it gets litigated, we’ll probably give some additional time while we’re getting that $45 billion out to people who are in fact behind in rent and don’t have the money.”
For days, some of Mr. Biden’s closest allies on Capitol Hill, including some of the most progressive Democrats in Congress, have been publicly and privately assailing his lack of action to help renters, accusing the president and his aides of failing to find a replacement for the eviction moratorium until it was too late.
Just days before Saturday’s expiration of the ban, Mr. Biden called on Congress to pass legislation to extend it. But with the House about to leave town for a seven-week vacation and Republicans solidly opposed to an extension, progressive Democrats described the White House call as a cynical attempt to shift blame to lawmakers. The administration, for its part, feared that any unilateral move would open the White House to legal challenges that could ultimately erode Mr. Biden’s presidential powers.
The expiration presented the president with a thorny choice: Side with the C.D.C. and his own lawyers, who saw an extension as a dangerous step that could limit executive authority during health crises, or heed the demands of his party’s progressive wing to take immediate action to halt what they saw as a preventable housing crisis.
Under intense pressure from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats, Mr. Biden’s team opted for an approach that would give them a chance to satisfy both camps, creating a new moratorium, based on a recent rise in infections from the Delta variant, that cited the risks associated with the movement of displaced tenants in areas where the virus is raging.