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Psaki Brushes Off Concerns about Constitutionality of Eviction Moratorium: ‘Who’s Saying That?’

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C., August 4, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

During a press briefing Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki brushed off concerns about the constitutionality of the Biden administration’s decision to extend the existing eviction moratorium without congressional approval.

President Biden announced Tuesday that the CDC would extend the eviction moratorium in the areas of the country that have been hardest hit by the resurgence of COVID-19. After making the announcement, Biden conceded that “the bulk of the constitutional scholars say it’s not likely to pass constitutional muster.”

When a reporter suggested that many Americans are concerned about Biden’s willingness to pursue a constitutionally dubious course of action, Psaki pushed back, suggesting that the reporter was citing non-existent critics.

“You know I’m going to ask you who’s saying that,” Psaki said.

“I think what’s important to note here is that the president would not have moved forward with a step where he didn’t feel comfortable and confident in the legal justification,” she continued. “But he asked the CDC and his legal experts to look at what is possible. This is a narrow, targeted moratorium that is different from the national moratorium. It’s not an extension of that,” she added.

Just one day before Biden announced the unilateral moratorium extension, the head of his COVID task force, Jeff Zients, said that the administration had “kicked every tire” but was unable to come up with a legal justification for the move. The administration’s initial insistence on staying within the bounds of their constitutional authority angered progressives, particularly those in the House Democratic caucus who camped in front of the Capitol for days to show solidarity with those who might be evicted.

In response to a reporter’s inquiry about landlords struggling to pay their bills because they’re prohibited from evicting tenants with overdue rent, Psaki replied, “Well actually the landlords can benefit from exactly the same emergency rental assistance that renters can benefit from.” The reporter followed up that the distribution of relief to landlords has been delayed across the country, exacerbating their financial plight.

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