No thinking person believes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has the authority to enact economic policies affecting large portions of America’s pre-existing contractual obligations. As almost always happens with the government, an emergency was used as justification for interference with the economy, and the “fix” took on a life of its own.
It is debatable how transparent the CDC uses a public health emergency to wrangle into place a sweeping and legally suspect restructuring of all residential leases. It is not in serious doubt that the outcome should have been foreseeable.
The question remains whether Congress has the authority under the Constitution to invalidate every residential lease in the country for any reason. The Biden administration and congressional Democrats saw the eviction moratorium as a legislative priority and an opportunity to provide federal assistance to millions who might be affected by the pandemic.
The original involvement of the CDC in economic policy shifted over time between the Trump and Biden administrations as a result. The Trump CDC originally proposed a moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent based on the opinions of medical experts that people who are evicted are likely to move to places where people are closer together.
A Census question was answered by one-third of renters who said that they would move in with friends or family if they were to be evicted. In turn, it was said to result in greater transmission of the coronavirus possibly.
That questionable medical rationale quickly morphed into typical progressive economics, imposed by an administrative office when it became apparent that ordinary legislation might be a problem for Democratic lawmakers.
Now that the period of widespread lockdowns has ended, the reasoning that a moratorium is needed to stop COVID-19 transmission is even more illusory.
It all comes as the Biden administration even acknowledged that the CDC’s extension is without legal authority. The case is likely to be noticed again by the United States Supreme Court. Although the outcome appears to be obvious based on earlier rulings, the damage will have been done to untold numbers of landlords by the time the court gets to a verdict.
Landlords might have a good case against the government that their property has been taken from them without due process or just compensation. However, many family small businesses will have already been destroyed, and as usual, any responsibility for politicians will be hard to find.