House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bid for a last-minute extension of an eviction moratorium for renters collapsed, leaving millions of Americans at risk of losing their homes after the ban lifts on Saturday.
Pelosi’s efforts, coming on the heels of a public plea made Thursday morning by President Joe Biden, marks a rare political defeat for the speaker, who has exercised tight control over House Democrats.
The California Democrat spent much of the day Friday trying to unify her caucus behind legislation to extend the moratorium until October 18 but ultimately came up short. The House adjourned without taking up the bill. “There was a lot of support by the caucus but not enough,” said Democratic Representative Maxine Waters, chair of the Financial Services committee. The deadline was no secret on Capitol Hill or at the White House, and Republicans as well as some Democrats faulted Biden for waiting until Thursday to speak publicly on the matter.
Pelosi in a news conference after the House adjourned said Democrats “will not forget this issue.” She added that she hoped that as more federal aid flows to tenants and landlords there would be less of a need for the government to stop evictions.
Shortly before the House adjourned, Biden implored states and localities to spend their money “immediately” to forestall an eviction crisis.
Pelosi and her leadership team spent much of the day pressuring Democrats as they tried to find the votes with most Republicans opposed.
“We’re counting, we’re counting,” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said earlier in the day.
At the same time, landlords were pushing hard against any further extension of the moratorium, calling it “unsustainable” for mom-and-pop owners in particular. “While well-intentioned, the national eviction moratorium has made providing rental housing unaffordable for many property owners,” the National Multifamily Housing Council said in a statement.
Congress has approved $47 billion in rent relief funding since December, but state programs to distribute that money have been mired in bureaucracy and miscommunication, a growing frustration for tenants and landlords alike.
Amid the landlords’ lobbying push, Democrats’ vote-counting became more difficult. Pelosi swore in a new Republican House member Friday morning, bringing the Democratic majority to 220 to 212. She could only lose three Democratic votes, if every Republican opposed the measure.
Reality was setting in by late afternoon that there were simply not enough Democratic votes in the House. Even if there had been, chances of a moratorium extension getting through the Senate were dim.
The speaker was still portraying the fight for passage as continuing, publicly releasing a second “Dear Colleague” letter to colleagues urging them to back the extension.
Pelosi picked up some support when she agreed to shorten the extension of the moratorium from December 31 to October 18.
But several Democrats, particularly moderates, could not be persuaded, multiple people familiar with the effort said.
‘A Known Disaster’
Without solid Democratic support to call a roll call vote, Hoyer attempted at the end of the day to seek unanimous consent for the extension. But Representative Patrick McHenry, a North Carolina Republican, objected, ending any chances.
McHenry earlier Friday said he was outraged over how the administration had handled the issue — and that Republicans had been making inquiries it what to do as the moratorium’s expiration was approaching.
“This was a known disaster,” McHenry said.
One Democratic official angrily said that the effort by mid-afternoon was little more than theater. Pelosi continued to publicly project that she was fighting hard, but her aides were growing resigned to defeat and increasingly resentful of Biden, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversation.