When President Joe Biden announced his Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was extending the eviction moratorium put in place at the height of the pandemic, he acknowledged the move was pretty dubious from a legal standpoint.
The media concurred — and yet they supported Biden’s decision. Apparently, that rule of law thing they were banging on about for the last couple of years means squat when lawbreaking yields desirous results.
Biden extended the moratorium on Tuesday despite a Supreme Court ruling in June that cut the program off at the end of July.
The court ruled on a suit brought by landlords’ groups that demanded an immediate end to the eviction ban. The justices allowed it to remain in place, but a concurring opinion from Justice Brett Kavanaugh made it clear that any extension beyond the end of July would require “clear and specific congressional authorization.”
The Biden administration didn’t get it, so it announced a revised eviction ban that was supposed to be more “targeted,” blocking evictions only in counties where the CDC classified the spread of COVID-19 as “substantial” or “high.”
During a Tuesday media briefing, Biden admitted to reporters that the legality of this move was questionable at best.
“Any call for moratorium based on the [Supreme Court’s] recent decision is likely to face obstacles,” Biden said, according to a transcript. “The courts made it clear that the existing moratorium was not constitutional, it wouldn’t stand.”
“The bulk of the constitutional scholarship says that it’s not likely to pass constitutional muster,” he added. “But there are several key scholars who think that it may and it’s worth the effort.”
That’s the kind of confidence Biden has in the legality of the new eviction ban. This is the guy who’s supposed to look Americans in the eye and say, “Trust me, this is legal.” Anyone who can’t do that knows darn well it isn’t.
Does the media care? Not really. In fact, some predictable outlets are giving Biden plaudits for his bold strategy of ignoring the rule of law to get his way.
The Washington Post: “Biden’s novel evictions defense: Maybe it’s illegal, but it’s worth it.” I don’t know if the headline editor got as much of a laugh over that one as I did, but there you go.
This wasn’t an opinion piece, by the way; senior reporter Aaron Blake’s apologia for lawbreaking is labeled as analysis, which (in theory) is supposed to fall in between hard news and straight commentary. Keep that in mind.
At its core, Blake’s argument is that the ends justify the means.
He begins by invoking former President Barack Obama’s unilateral decision to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program when Congress wouldn’t agree to his demands, even though Obama had repeatedly acknowledged he didn’t have the power to do so.
Biden went even deeper into dubious constitutional territory, Blake added. It’s worth it, though, because it’ll buy him time: “By the time it gets litigated, it will probably give some additional time while we’re getting that $45 billion out to people who are in fact behind in the rent and don’t have the money,” Biden said.
“In other words: It might not be legal, but even if it’s not, we’ll get some good done in the meantime,” Blake added.
The message is clear: Breaking the law is a perfectly legitimate strategy because, hey, by the time the courts get around to stopping the Biden administration, it’ll have gotten some of its agenda accomplished.
CNN’s Stephen Collinson managed to one-up Blake in another “analysis” in which he argued that Biden was justified in breaking the law because Congress was “malfunctioning” — which is to say, not submitting to the president’s whims.
“Even President Joe Biden doesn’t know whether his new federal eviction moratorium for renters is legal and sustainable. But crushing humanitarian and political pressure left him no choice but to take a chance on an emergency move,” Collinson wrote.
“To head off mass evictions, the White House came up with a classic Washington fudge — not unfamiliar in an era of Capitol Hill gridlock — in which presidents, especially Democrats, have improvised with executive power to shield constituencies from consequences of a malfunctioning political system.”
Collinson argues that Biden “averted a humanitarian crisis,” giving us a single anecdote of a Las Vegas mom who had to pawn or sell most of her furniture after she lost her job as evidence. CNN’s readership may not need any more convincing than that, but Collinson will have to try a bit harder with the rest of us.
Collinson doesn’t mention that there’s no shortage of employment opportunities at present, nor does he care that mom-and-pop landlords — “about half of all housing providers,” according to Charlie Oppler, president of the National Association of Realtors — are getting killed by the moratorium.
Never mind that there’s no guarantee the $40-odd billion in congressional funding will keep property owners afloat or the system running. And even if we erase all doubt that Biden “averted a humanitarian crisis,” what of the next potential crisis when the new moratorium expires in October?
But that’s not really the point. Blake and Collinson both admit this is almost certainly illegal — but it’s lawbreaking that gets stuff done. High five!
I’m not a particularly vengeful person and I’d never ask God to strike anyone down with a bolt of lightning.
However, if either Aaron Blake or Stephen Collinson ever types the words “rule of law” again in reference to a Republican, it’s not too much to hope the Almighty will send him a strong electrical shock through the keyboard of his MacBook Pro. Fair’s fair.
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