White House press secretary Jen Psaki dismissed concerns that President Biden is "signaling that he doesn't respect the rule of law" following the new moratorium on evictions.
"I'm not sure there are Americans evaluating it to that degree, maybe there are some you've talked to," Psaki told a reporter Wednesday during a press conference, when asked about Americans' concerns about the new moratorium. "He's gonna do everything in his power to make sure they can stay in their homes as long as possible."
The Biden administration announced a new targeted moratorium on evictions on Tuesday, after previously saying it had no legal standing on the matter following a June Supreme Court ruling. The announcement has sparked concerns and questions about the legality of the move, including from constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley.
"The White House seems to be putting the tactical on the same level as the constitutional in this move. President Biden acknowledged that he was told by most legal experts that this is unconstitutional. The majority of the Supreme Court left little doubt of their view of the unconstitutionality," Turley told Fox News, when asked about Psaki's dismissal of concerns.
"President Biden however said that he could use the delay in courts blocking the order to get money out the door. The fact that he would be distributing millions without constitutional authority did not seem to weigh at all, let alone heavily, in his decision," he continued. "President Biden took an oath on January 20th to uphold the Constitution. Period. It did not have an option to disregard the Constitution when politically expedient. The President made the mistake of saying the quiet part out loud. That line will now be repeated to federal courts to ask for an immediate injunction to prevent this tactical move."
Psaki fielded other questions on the legality of the moratorium during the press conference, prompting her to explain, "It's not an extension," but a "different moratorium from a policy and legal standpoint."
"He's issuing or overseeing this order from the CDC, in the face of doubts about its constitutionality. There are many people out there who say that the president is essentially not giving voice to the ethic that he campaigned on," one reporter told Psaki. "How do you square all that?"
"You know I'm gonna ask you who's saying that," Psaki responded.
The reporter said that "there are plenty of people" voicing concern and that they are not only Republicans.
"Okay, I’ll leave that to others to figure out," she said.
"I think what’s important to note here is that the president would not have moved forward with a step where he didn’t feel comfortable and confident in the legal justification," she continued. "But he asked the CDC and his legal experts to look at what is possible. This is a narrow, targeted moratorium that is different from the national moratorium. It’s not an extension of that."
Turley added in his comments to Fox News that "Justice Department lawyers do not have the same luxury of Psaki in offering just a shrug and a dismissive statement."
"They were given a shot across the bow by the Supreme Court and the Biden Administration has just fired back in defiance," he said.
The comments come after the Supreme Court ruled 4-5 in June to allow the CDC to continue its moratorium until July 31, and said that any future extensions would be in Congress’s hands.
The White House had previously said it lacked the legal authority to extend the federal moratorium on evictions in light of the Supreme Court ruling and put the onus of any extension on Congress.
"In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the President calls on Congress to extend the eviction moratorium to protect such vulnerable renters and their families without delay," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last week.
Again on Monday, Psaki said that the CDC had "been unable to find legal authority for a new, targeted eviction moratorium."
"Our team is redoubling efforts to identify all available legal authorities to provide necessary protections. In the meantime, the President will continue to do everything in his power to help renters from eviction."
But on Tuesday, the administration announced a new targeted eviction ban to replace the one that expired on Saturday. The president said he spoke with constitutional scholars and even conceded that "the bulk of the constitutional scholars say it’s not likely to pass constitutional muster."
The new CDC ban focuses on "counties experiencing substantial and high levels of community transmission levels" and will last until Oct. 3.