Realtor Coalition Submits Emergency Appeal to Supreme Court to Reject CDC Eviction Moratorium Ban
Policymakers Remain Far Apart on Bipartisan Infrastructure Package; Senate Ruling Limits Reconciliation as Fast-Track Option
Senate Committee Unanimously Reauthorizes Highway Trust Fund; β€œGateway” Hudson Tunnel Project Reaches Major Milestone
Roundtable Weekly
June 4, 2021
Realtor Coalition Submits Emergency Appeal to Supreme Court to Reject CDC Eviction Moratorium Ban

The U.S. Supreme Court building

A coalition of Realtor associations on June 3 submitted an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court to reject the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) national eviction moratorium, which is scheduled to expire June 30. (SCOTUSblog, June 3)

Why It Matters

  • The federal eviction moratorium – originally enacted by Congress more than a year ago in the CARES Act – was extended by both the Trump and Biden Administrations by executive orders to prevent mass evictions in the face of a public health emergency. A further extension by President Biden is likely. 

  • The Supreme Court appeal in Alabama Association of Realtors v. Department of Health and Human Services comes after a DC Circuit court this week upheld a federal judge’s May 5 ruling, which allowed the moratorium to remain in effect. (Roundtable Weekly, May 7)

  • The Realtor coalition argued in its 35-page pleading to the high court that “Congress never gave the CDC the staggering amount of power it now claims.” (NBCNews and CNN, June 3)

  • The filing also emphasized that the CDC’s moratorium “shifted the pandemic’s financial burdens from the nation’s 30 to 40 million renters to its 10 to 11 million landlords—most of whom, like applicants, are individuals and small businesses—resulting in over $13 billion in unpaid rent per month.” (Case number 21-5093 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.)

  • National Multifamily Housing Council CEO Doug Bibby on June 2 told Connect CRE that rental housing is dominated by non-institutional, ‘mom and pop” property owners. Bibby stated, “When eviction moratoria policies are treated as ‘rental holidays,’ these individual property owners tend to suffer disproportionately – as do renters, who end up with fewer options.”

  • Bibby added, “While federal policymakers ultimately provided $46.5 billion for emergency rental assistance, the continuation of eviction moratoriums has renewed focus on broader questions of eviction practices, as well as raised concerns about the disruption in the market once the moratoriums expire.” (ConnectCRE, June 2)
  • The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced yesterday that it is extending for a third time the ongoing moratorium on evictions on multifamily properties backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which the agency oversees. The housing regulator’s extension is now in effect until the end of September, preventing affected housing providers from evicting tenants for not paying rent, or charging late fees for unpaid rent. (Reuters, June 3)

Distribution Problems 

Capitol Dome Dusk

  • Congress approved $25 billion of emergency rental assistance in December 2020 under the Consolidated Appropriations Act. An additional $21.6 billion was allocated in March 2021 under the American Rescue Plan Act. The Treasury Department announced on May 7 that it was releasing the second allocation, along with new guidance for local municipalities administering emergency rental assistance programs. (Roundtable Weekly, May 14)
  • State and local authorities have been overwhelmed with how to allocate the influx of funds, leaving many tenants and housing providers waiting weeks or months for the assistance. (Washington Post, June 4 and Wall Street Journal, April 13)
  • The Roundtable is part of a broad real estate coalition that has urged state, county and municipal officials to distribute the allocated federal funds as soon as possible. (Coalition letter, April 15)
  • The coalition letter emphasized the need “to quickly and fully allocate available American Rescue Plan federal funds to provide assistance to renters, consumer-facing small businesses, and impacted industries such as retail, tourism, travel, and hospitality that are having trouble paying rents, mortgages or remaining viable enterprises due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
  • The letter adds, “Such assistance would make a big difference in the lives of thousands upon thousands of COVID-19 affected renters and businesses in their cities, counties, and states – and would also provide stability to the buildings and communities in which they live.

As this week’s emergency appeal is considered by to the Supreme Court, there are several states that will continue to ban evictions beyond June 30. Additionally, the state of Washington last month guaranteed tenants facing eviction the right to counsel. Maryland and Connecticut are considering similar measures. (CNBC, June 3)

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Policymakers Remain Far Apart on Bipartisan Infrastructure Package; Senate Ruling Limits Reconciliation as Fast-Track Option

President Biden and Sen. Capito

Policymakers this week remained far apart on the scope and cost of a possible bipartisan infrastructure package, as President Biden floated a 15% minimum corporate tax to partially fund his pared-down proposal. Meanwhile, a recent Senate Parliamentarian ruling would limit the use of a fast-track budget process called “reconciliation” that could allow Democrats to bypass Republicans and pass legislation on a party-line vote. (Washington Post, June 3, The Hill and New York magazine, June 2)  

[Photo above: President Biden discusses infrastructure with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)]

Seeking New Spending

  • President Biden recently reduced his original infrastructure package cost from $2.3 trillion to $1.7 trillion – and is now looking for at least $1 trillion in new spending from Republicans on infrastructure. Biden this week proposed raising these funds partially through a new 15% minimum corporate tax, which would replace his initial proposal to raise the corporate income rate to 28% from 21%. (BGov and New York Times, June 3)

  • Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who is leading GOP lawmakers in negotiations with the White House, last week counteroffered with $928 billion – although it limits new spending to $257 billion for traditional “hard” infrastructure such as roads, bridges and other public works. Republicans proposed the remaining $671 billion come from repurposed funding previously passed as part of the American Rescue Plan Act’s Covid-19 relief effort. Democrats have rejected repurposing of funds. (Roundtable Weekly, May 28 and AP, May 27)

  • The U.S. Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities and National Association of Counties recently expressed their “adamant opposition to any proposal that would detrimentally recoup and repurpose funds allocated to local governments” from coronavirus relief funds. (NLC news release, June 1 and joint letter, May 27)

  • The coalition’s joint letter to congressional leadership, stated, “Local governments are using these critical recovery funds to invest in public safety, vaccine distribution, housing and rental assistance, local economic support, economic and workforce development, broadband expansion, social safety-net services, hospitality and tourism development, and hazard pay for public employees.”

Time is Short

The White House with Washington Monument

  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki this week said, “Patience is not unending, and [President Biden’s] wants to make progress. His only line in the sand is inaction. He wants to sign a bill into law this summer.” (White House Press Briefing, June 2)

  • The No. 3-ranked House Democrat, Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, yesterday said time is short to complete negotiations on a bipartisan package. “I don’t think we should run the risk of not getting something done because the other side is not cooperating.” (Bloomberg’s Balance of Tower, June 3)

  • Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) on Thursday added that Democrats would soon take actions to use the budget reconciliation process to bypass the Senate’s 60-vote requirement to pass legislation and push through a bill on a party line vote.  Cardin said that Democrats are “going as far as we can with Republicans and not delay[ing] it beyond this work period without seeing some action.” (Politico, June 3)

  • Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) said last week that he wants to move forward on an infrastructure bill in July, whether it is bipartisan or not. (The Hill, May 25)

Limits on Reconciliation

Senate side - Capitol Building

  • The Democrats’ alternative plan to use reconciliation to bypass Republican opposition on infrastructure legislation may be slowed by a recent Senate Parlimentarian ruling. Congressional Democrats used reconciliation in March to pass the administration’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package. (Roundtable Weekly, March 12)

  • Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough’s four-page opinion, issued to Senate staff on May 28, stated, "overuse and over-reliance on a hyper-fast track procedure in the ordinarily deliberative Senate … will change the culture of the institution to the detriment of the committee and amendment processes and the rights of all Senators." (CQ, June 2)

  • The new guidance adds that lawmakers intended the reconciliation provision to be used only “in extraordinary circumstances and not for things that should have been or could have been foreseen and handled” in a regular budget resolution. 

The ruling suggests that Democrats will be restricted to one additional opportunity this year to use reconciliation to pass a filibuster-proof legislative package.  (Roll Call, June 2 and The Hill, June 4)

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Senate Committee Unanimously Reauthorizes Highway Trust Fund; β€œGateway” Hudson Tunnel Project Reaches Major Milestone

Senate Environment & Public Works Comittee

The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee’s unanimous vote last week to advance $303.5 billion over the next five years to fund the nation’s largest source for roads, bridges, tunnels, and mass transit may help advance negotiations over President Biden’s infrastructure proposal. (BGov, May 26)

A Bipartisan Signal

  • Senate EPW Ranking Member Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) is the lead GOP negotiator on the White House’s infrastructure proposal, which includes $115 billion for repairing Main Street roads, highways and bridges. (White House Fact Sheet: The American Jobs Plan, March 31)
  • Sen. Capito said the 20-vote committee vote to advance the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act “… is further proof that a bipartisan infrastructure deal is possible. I’m hopeful this bipartisan product can be the anchor of a larger infrastructure package moving forward.” (Senate EPW Markup and news release, May 26)
  • The Senate committee’s measure would set a new baseline funding level for the Department of Transportation’s Highway Trust Fund – an increase of more than 34 percent from the last reauthorization to pass Congress in 2015.  (Full text of the EPW bill and one-page summary)

Time Considerations

Road Construction ramp
  • The Senate EPW Committee only has jurisdiction over the surface transportation bill’s highway section. The Senate Commerce Committee is next, with a markup expected the week of June 14. The Senate Finance Committee will eventually address how to pay for the measure and the Senate Banking Committee will consider sections dealing with mass transit programs.
  • In the House, Democrats on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee  introduced the INVEST in American Act today and plan to mark up their surface reauthorization bill on June 9. (Bill Text | Fact Sheet | Section-by-Section and Washington Post, June 4)

  • The Biden administration was encouraged by the Senate EPW vote. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a May 25 briefing that the$303 billion dollar bill “is a great down payment” for a broader infrastructure package. (BGov, May 26)
  • However, the administration has expressed it is on a tighter deadline to advance a comprehensive infrastructure proposal. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg recently said, “I think we are getting pretty close to a fish-or-cut-bait moment.” (CNN, May 30) 

Gateway Progress

Gateway Hudson Tunnel Project
  • The Biden Administration on May 28 approved a key step allowing the multi-billion dollar “Gateway” rail tunnel project between New York City and New Jersey to move forward, ending years of delay and clearing the way for state officials to apply for federal funding.  (New York Times, May 28)
  • The administration’s approval of a long-awaited environmental impact statement clears the way for pre-construction activities to begin on the crucial infrastructure project, which aims to repair tunnels damaged by Superstorm Sandy. (Politico, May 28)
  • Transportation Secretary Buttigieg commented on the approval – clearing the way for the project to advance to the next steps such as engineering, final design development, and property acquisition, as well as construction. “This is a big step for the Northeast, and for the entire country, as these tunnels connect so many people, jobs, and businesses,” he said. (DOT statement, May 28)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “It’s probably the most important public works project in America. If those tunnels fail and can’t be used, 25 percent of our economy would be at risk from Boston to Washington.” (Politico, May 28) 

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