House Dems hustle for votes to extend eviction moratorium after eleventh-hour Biden push

But Pelosi and leadership team are now in their second day of aggressive whipping on the moratorium extension, struggling to win over a group of entrenched holdouts that includes moderates who say the extension shouldn’t go beyond Sept. 30. And several Democrats across the caucus argue there’s little point in forcing a vote when the Senate is unlikely to be able to win 10 Republican votes for the measure.

Democrats remained short by nearly 20 votes as of Friday morning and patience was running thin, with frustrations escalating within the caucus about sticking around Washington with no timeline to vote, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Asked about the issue on Friday, Pelosi essentially put the onus on the Biden administration to extend the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's eviction moratorium.

"We’re going to have to find a solution," Pelosi said. "I think that the CDC can."

The renewed plea Friday morning follows a furious Thursday night demand from House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who implored Democrats to try to pass the bill on the floor during a tense conversation with Pelosi and her leadership team. Later Thursday evening, Pelosi sent an emotional letter to her colleagues, invoking the Gospel of Matthew to stress the “responsibility to provide shelter to those in need.”

“In the last 24 hours, a challenge to the conscience of the Congress has descended upon us, as millions of Covid-affected renter households are facing eviction,” Pelosi wrote.

That task grew trickier on Friday morning, when Pelosi’s already-tight margin shrunk by one vote as Republicans added the winner of a Tuesday Texas special election — Rep. Jake Ellzey — to their conference.

As of Friday morning, the bill’s backers, including Waters, weren’t budging on the length of the extension, insisting that the moratorium last through the end of the year.

Supporters of the legislation were losing hope that the bill would come to a vote on Friday before members leave town, with one housing activist warning that a decision to not even take up a vote would be “devastating for renters who are already feeling abandoned.”

Landlords and industry groups, meanwhile, rallied quickly to oppose the bill.

A coalition of 14 industry groups representing property owners and operators, developers and mortgage lenders fired off a letter to lawmakers late Thursday night urging them to “end the unsustainable nationwide federal restrictions on property operations” and instead focus on accelerating the distribution of rental aid.

“The moratorium unfairly shifts economic hardships to the backs of housing providers who have jeopardized their own financial futures to provide essential housing to renters across the country,” the groups, led by the National Association of Realtors, wrote.

The ban has been “especially difficult” for the mom-and-pop landlords who provide 40 percent of the country’s rental units and who “continue to pay mortgages, taxes, insurance, and maintain the safety of their properties for tenants with less or, in many cases, no rental income,” they wrote.

The eviction moratorium problem has landed in Democrats' laps at a time when tensions were already running high in the House, with lawmakers confronting each other in hallways and getting into shouting matches in hearings amid frustrations over a renewed mask mandate and investigations into Jan. 6.

Asked Thursday night if Democrats were short of votes to extend the moratorium, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) quipped: "You are just a keen analyst.”

Asked about whether Democrats would consider a shorter extension, such as one lasting through September, Hoyer said: "There's going to be a lot of talk and we'll see. We're talking about it."