By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. House of Representatives adjourned on Friday without renewing an 11-month-old pandemic-related federal moratorium on residential evictions set to expire on Saturday after a Republican congressman blocked a bid to extend it until Oct. 18.
The moratorium's expiration could put millions of Americans at risk of being forced out of rented houses and apartments. Landlord groups have opposed the moratorium, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention implemented to combat the spread of COVID-19 and prevent homelessness during the pandemic.
President Joe Biden on Thursday had asked Congress to extend the moratorium in line with a Supreme Court opinion last month that suggested legislative approval was required to do so. Biden also made clear that his administration would not extend it again without congressional approval.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in explaining the need to extend the eviction ban, noted that out of $46.5 billion in rental relief previously approved by Congress, "only $3 billion has been distributed to renters."
Biden on Friday urged state and local governments "to take all possible steps to immediately disburse these funds given the imminent ending of the CDC eviction moratorium."
House Democratic leaders made a last-minute bid to win unanimous consent for legislation to extend the moratorium until the October expiration of a federal public health emergency declaration on COVID-19. Republican Representative Patrick McHenry, who has called the moratorium unconstitutional https://mchenry.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=402967, blocked that effort.
Lacking sufficient support, House Democrats pared back the proposed moratorium extension and ultimately opted not to bring the legislation to a vote. The Senate also would need to pass an extension before the moratorium's expiration at the end of the day on Saturday.
Democratic leaders said some lawmakers had concerns about how long the moratorium should be extended. The House failure means it is all but certain that the ban will expire.
Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders said in a joint statement after the failed effort that Republicans would not support the extension.
"This is an urgent matter that requires all of our efforts to resolve and demands that politics are put aside to help our fellow Americans avoid losing their homes," they said.
More than 15 million people in 6.5 million U.S. households are currently behind on rental payments, according to a study by the Aspen Institute and the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, collectively owing more than $20 billion to landlords.
The U.S. Supreme Court last month decided 5-4 to leave in place the CDC's moratorium. The CDC said last month it would not extend the ban past July 31. The ban was first put in place by the CDC in September 2020 under former President Donald Trump.
"In my view, clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation) would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium past July 31," wrote Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was one of five justices who voted to leave the moratorium in place.
The U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs and the Federal Housing Finance Agency on Friday separately extended their foreclosure-related eviction moratoriums until Sept. 30, the last day of the current fiscal year.
Some states have chosen to extend eviction moratoriums beyond July 31 including New York, whose moratorium runs through Aug. 31, and California, which extended its ban through Sept. 30.
Landlord groups previously launched an unsuccessful effort in the courts to end the moratorium early, arguing that the CDC overstepped it authority.
The National Apartment Association, with 82,600 members that collectively manage more than 9.7 million rental units, on Tuesday sued the U.S. government seeking billions of dollars in unpaid rent due to the moratorium.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Will Dunham, Dan Grebler and Aurora Ellis)