‘Bring everybody back’: AOC, Bowman and Cori Bush occupy Capitol steps to protest end of eviction moratorium

·4 min read
U.S. Representative Cori Bush (D-MO) speaks to reporters about the upcoming expiration of the pandemic-related federal moratorium on residential evictions from the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., July 31, 2021. (REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz)
U.S. Representative Cori Bush (D-MO) speaks to reporters about the upcoming expiration of the pandemic-related federal moratorium on residential evictions from the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., July 31, 2021. (REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz)

Progressive Democrats assailed both the leadership of their own party in the House and in the White House as well as the Senate working on an infrastructure package at a rally on Capitol Hill on Saturday evening to protest the end of the eviction moratorium.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevent began the eviction moratorium in September 2020 under former president Donald Trump and was set to expire 31 July as the House went out for August recess, when many members return to their home districts.

Rep Cori Bush, who has been leading the protest on the Hill, said she and Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came up with the idea for the protest on Friday. Ms Bush said the two posted on social media to rally supporters.

“What happened? You all answered the call,” she said. “The least we could do was put out a freaking tweet. The least we could do was show up right here.”

Ms Bush, who beat an incumbent Democrat in Missouri last year, and Rep Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota slept on the steps of the Capitol on Friday to protest the end of the moratorium.

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“I cried over and over again, even on television. I’ll take that” she said. “You know what I won’t take, is more death due to failed leadership and inactivity.”

House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts criticized the White House for its failure to act on it.

“I wish the White House had gotten its shit together earlier,” Mr McGovern said to roaring applause. “But we are where we are, right? And so we have no choice but to mobilize and to get members of Congress to do the right thing.”

Mr McGovern, wearing shorts and a black hoodie, said he had no expectations for Republicans to vote to extend the eviction moratorium--despite the fact it began during the Trump administration--but that he expected every Democrat to do it. He added that had convened a hearing on Friday morning at 8:00 to hold a hearing to extend the moratorium.

“Quite frankly I thought we’d be able to get this done you know quickly but then we found out we didn’t have the votes and some of our own Democrats weren’t going to be there for us,” Mr McGovern said, saying they waited and tried to figure out where they could compromise.

“Long story short, it didn’t get done,” he said, saying he would reconvene the rules committee immediately if there were enough votes.

Rep Sara Jacobs of California said that being from San Diego, it’s harder to return to Washington than it is for members from the northeast to return to Washington.

“And there were hundreds of us, hundreds, who were willing to stay here and make sure that we got this done and it is shameful that our colleagues decided to go home and let millions of people get evicted from their homes,” she said.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez assailed Democratic leadership for sending the House out for recess with a strict 24-hour notice return in case the Senate voted on its bipartisan infrastructure package. The Senate voted 67-32 to take up the bipartisan infrastructure proposal.

“So we aren’t off the hook, we could pull that trigger and pull that 24-hour notice and bring everybody back to Washington,” to extend the moratorium, she said.

Rep Jamaal Bowman of New York said he had initially headed home to take care of a personal matter when he saw the eviction moratorium was on the precipice of expiring.

“We can put billions of dollars into bombs, we can put billions of dollars into missiles into jets, into the carceral system, into jails, into police, but we cannot keep people in their homes” Mr Bowman said. “What kind of shit is that?”

Lynese Wallace, Ms Bush’s deputy chief of staff, spoke about demanding that the eviction moratorium be included in the infrastructure package. When asked whether that meant the bipartisan infrastructure package or the reconciliation package which will most likely be passed on a straight party-line vote with vice president Kamala Harris breaking the tie in the 50-50 Senate, Ms Wallace told The Independent, “both.”

At the same time, Ms Ocasio Cortez and Mr Bowman were unclear about whether they would be a hard “no” vote on the bipartisan infrastructure package if the eviction moratorium weren’t passed.

“If we don’t have it with reconciliation, it’s a no regardless,” she told The Independent. “Without an eviction moratorium, this already adds complications because this should have been a given and it should have already happened.”

Ms Ocasio-Cortez said it was unusual that the moratorium wasn’t extended and it needed to be a major priority. Mr Bowman said he hoped it could be included in the reconciliation package.

“Oh, absolutely,” he told The Independent. “It needs to be extended by any means necessary.”

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