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Following An Outcry From Democrats In Congress, Biden Plans To Resume Ban On Eviction

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The Biden administration is putting in place a new eviction moratorium to help people who've fallen behind on their rent because of the pandemic. This follows a massive political outcry from Democrats in Congress and after an earlier moratorium expired.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I've indicated to the CDC I'd like them to look at other alternatives than the one that is in power - in existence, which the court has declared they're not going to allow to continue.

KELLY: Well, we asked the director of the CDC about the new moratorium elsewhere on the show today. And we know this marks a sudden shift. For days, the White House has insisted the moratorium could not continue. NPR's Tamara Keith joins me from the White House. Hey, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hello.

KELLY: So what is going on? - 'cause just yesterday the White House was saying, we can't extend this. Only Congress can.

KEITH: President Biden said he asked the CDC and constitutional scholars if there was a way to extend the moratorium. Most of those scholars apparently told him there wasn't a way, but a few scholars offered ideas for a new moratorium that could pass muster. The Supreme Court said earlier that one - the earlier one could not go past the end of July without Congress giving more explicit authority for it.

Biden described this new, limited moratorium as a safety valve that could help as many as 90% of renters. It would be a partial ban on evictions in counties that have high infection rates - COVID infection rates, which is a lot of counties right now. And the goal here is to buy time for money from the American Rescue Plan that was for rental assistance to actually get out to renters and their landlords and cover back rent, to get people caught up with the hope that, with the economy improving, they will be able to pay their rent going forward and not need to be evicted.

KELLY: Let me broaden this out to other pandemic news...

KEITH: Yeah.

KELLY: ...Because the president's been under all kinds of pressure with this new delta variant and the new guidance for vaccinated people. What did he say? How did he address all this today?

KEITH: He wants to boost vaccinations, and he expressed frustration that, in the states where the virus is spreading the most, the governors aren't doing enough to help. The government - the federal government wants to send in strike teams of experts, for example, but the White House says they need to be invited to do that. They've offered the help, but the invitation hasn't come yet from states like Florida and Texas. Meanwhile, some Republican governors are doing things like banning mask mandates, threatening to pull funding from schools that require masks for students, banning vaccine verification, even trying to prevent private businesses from requiring vaccination for their employees. These governors cite personal freedom and responsibility, but President Biden said he's fed up.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: If some governors aren't willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic, then they should allow businesses and universities who want to do the right thing to be able to do it. I say to these governors, please help. But if you aren't going to help, at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing.

KEITH: As he was leaving the room, a reporter shouted a question to Biden about why he doesn't call Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and Biden dismissed it as pointless.

KELLY: Now, this event today was supposed to be all about some good news in the fight against the virus. The White House has sent 110 million vaccine doses, shared now with other countries. It sounds like that was completely overtaken by other pandemic news.

KEITH: Overtaken by events. And, yes, that's what the White House wanted to talk about - that they've sent out these shipments and that there are more coming. This is a key part of ending the pandemic - is making sure that countries that can't afford vaccines can get enough of them. It proved a bit more complicated than initially expected, but they are now trying to speed things up. They've ordered half a billion more doses. And President Biden wants other countries to step up, too, but he didn't outline any specific steps.

KELLY: Thank you, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome.

KELLY: NPR's Tamara Keith. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.