WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, blamed Democratic leadership for allowing the nation's eviction moratorium to expire and said the White House wasn't being "forthright" about its desire for Congress to act until it was too late.
The Democratic-controlled House adjourned Friday without extending the moratorium that was put in place to help renters amid the coronavirus pandemic. It expired Sunday, leaving progressive Democrats like Ocasio-Cortez outraged and demanding that the House return from its August recess.
Ocasio-Cortez said House Democratic leadership had an opportunity to hold a vote on extending the moratorium last week, but "there was frankly a handful of conservative Democrats in the House that threatened to get on planes rather than hold this vote.
"We have to really just call a spade a spade," she said in an interview Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union." "We cannot in good faith blame House Republicans when Democrats have the majority."
The congresswoman also singled out President Joe Biden's administration, which didn't publicly call on Congress to extend the moratorium until last Thursday — a full month after the Supreme Court ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could not continue the policy unilaterally.
"We asked the Biden administration for their stance, and they were not being really forthright about that advocacy and that request until the day before the House adjourned," she said. "The House was put into a needlessly difficult situation."
Top Democrats worked on a proposal last week to extend the moratorium by three months, according to Politico, but many in the party's moderate wing didn't back it. Yet unlike Ocasio-Cortez, House Democratic leaders blamed Republicans for the lack of action. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Saturday tweeted, "In an act of pure cruelty, Republicans blocked this measure – leaving children and families out on the streets."
Ensuring every American has a roof overhead is a value that unites the Democratic Party. That's why I led a relentless campaign to extend the CDC eviction moratorium. In an act of pure cruelty, Republicans blocked this measure — leaving children and families out on the streets.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 1, 2021
Progressive Democrats Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., joined by Ocasio-Cortez, have camped outside on the U.S. Capitol steps since Friday to draw attention to the issue. Ocasio-Cortez said more than 11 million renters – one out of every six renters in the U.S. – are behind on their rent payments.
White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Friday disputed that the Biden administration was late to urge Congress to extend the moratorium, saying they had "been having conversations with Congress for some time."
Appearing on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg defended the president when asked whether the White House failed by letting the moratorium end.
"The president enthusiastically supports movement to extend this, but we're not waiting for that and haven't been," Buttigieg said. "There have been steps at every level using every lever available to this administration throughout, and will continue to be."
Biden and Democrats have called attention to $46.5 billion approved by Congress this year for emergency rental assistance that states and have been slow to spend. Biden urged states and cities Friday still sitting on the aid to "take all possible steps to immediately disburse these funds."
Ocasio-Cortez also acknowledged the slow rollout of emergency funds but said: "The fact of the matter is that the problem is here. The House should reconvene and call this vote and extend the moratorium."
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: AOC points to Democrats, Biden for letting eviction moratorium expire