2. SOUNDBITE (English) Rep. James P. McGovern, House Rules Committee Chairman:
"If Congress doesn't act, renters from coast to coast are at risk of losing their homes and the COVID pandemic will be supercharged, particularly in unvaccinated communities. That's because research tells us that if someone is evicted, they are most likely to move in with friends or family or into a shelter. That only increases community spread and leads to more infections and sadly, in some cases, more deaths caused by the pandemic."
++SOUNDBITES SEPARATED BY WHITE FLASH++
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Rep. Tom Cole, House Rules Committee Ranking Member:
"Republicans have proposed a bill that would have fixed the issues with the emergency rental assistance programs to keep renters in their homes. Yet the majority has refused to act. And now, because of their refusal to act, we are suddenly being dragged into the Rules committee. Majority has only themselves to blame for allowing this crisis to fester."
"Is it an emergency enough that you're going to stop families from being put on the sidewalk? Is it emergency enough that you're going to need to wonder what the hell is going to happen with these children that won't be able to go back to school because they don't even know where they're going to be sleeping or they're going to be? It's an emergency. And so, yes, we should move forward, and we should do everything that we can."
"So, I think that this is rushed. This is this is not the way to legislate. And the majority has not done its job to actually do the hearings so that we could move forward on a legislation that would be appropriate for this time."
Hours before a nationwide eviction moratorium is set to expire, Congress raced Friday to try to extend the ban in a longshot effort to prevent millions of Americans of being forced from their homes during a COVID-19 surge.
A House panel convened to consider emergency legislation to extend the ban, which expires Saturday, through Dec. 31. But approving an extension would be a steep climb in the narrowly-split Congress.
More than 3.6 million Americans are at risk of eviction, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi implored colleagues to act, calling it a "moral imperative" to not only protect renters but also the landlords who are owed compensation.
Congress must "meet the needs of the American people: both the families unable to make rent and those to whom the rent is to be paid," Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues.
President Joe Biden announced Thursday the administration would allow the ban on evictions to expire. The White House argued its hands are tied after the Supreme Court signaled the moratorium would only be extended until the end of the month.
Not all lawmakers are on board with an extension, and the House is preparing to leave Friday for a scheduled recess. The Senate is also considering emergency legislation but passage in the 50-50 may be even more difficult.
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the Financial Services chairwoman who authored the emergency bill, urged her colleagues to act.
"Is it emergency enough that you're going to stop families from being put on the street?" Waters said as the Rules committee met to consider the bill. "What the hell is going to happen to these children?"
But Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, of Washington, the top Republican on another panel handling the issue, said the Democrats' bill was rushed.
"This is not the way to legislate," she said.
Congress pushed nearly $47 billion to the states earlier during the COVID crisis to shore up landlords and renters as workplaces shut down and many people were suddenly left out of work.
But lawmakers said state governments have been slow to distribute the money in the new program. On Friday they said only some $3 billion has been spent.
By the end of March, 6.4 million American households were behind on their rent, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. As of July 5, roughly 3.6 million people in the U.S. said they faced eviction in the next two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey.
The ban was initially put in place to prevent further spread of COVID-19 by people put out on the streets and into shelters.
The White House said Biden would have liked to extend the federal eviction moratorium due to spread of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. Instead, Biden called on Congress to do so.
"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 CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability," the White House said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available."
The court mustered a bare 5-4 majority last month, to allow the eviction ban to continue through the end of July.
One of those in the majority, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, made clear he would block any additional extensions unless there was "clear and specific congressional authorization."
Aides to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Sherrod Brown, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, said the two are working on legislation to extend the moratorium and are asking Republicans not to block it.
Waters spoke with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and urged her to push states to distribute some $47 billion in funding the Congress had already approved for housing aid during the coronavirus pandemic but which has been slow to reach renters and landlords.
Congress has allocated nearly $47 billion in assistance that is supposed to go to help tenants pay off months of back rent. But so far, only about $3 billion of the first tranche of $25 billion has been distributed through June by states and localities. Some states like New York have distributed almost nothing, while several have only approved a few million dollars.