Cori Bush slept in her own bed last night, presumably, for the first time since July 30, when she started sleeping on the steps of the Capitol building’s East Front after the House of Representatives failed to stop the CDC’s federal eviction moratorium from expiring.
Bush’s at times one-woman protest should never have happened: it’s a disgrace that the Biden administration and Congress as a whole didn’t act proactively to find a way to extend the CDC’s moratorium before it was too late. But without it, that mistake may have stretched on for weeks, months, or even longer, all while Americans were rooted out of their homes by predatory landlords. Instead, Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that he had directed the CDC to employ a short-term, 60 partial extension to the eviction moratorium. The new moratorium would cover an estimated 90 percent of the population, restoring at least some semblance of possible stability for millions of families on the brink.
This stopgap is hardly a permanent solution, nor is it satisfactory to address the root causes of the massive eviction crisis across the country. But a win is a win, and it’s hard to see this one happening without Bush’s determined stand capturing headlines and rallying support from other progressive lawmakers. In fact, Bush’s protest itself is a good barometer for the winds of Washington change, as she went from the support of just a few fellow progressives like AOC and Mondaire Jones to literally embracing Chuck Schumer. As Punchbowl News noted, even if the extension is struck down by federal courts, it buys Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi time to work on a more lasting solution, a priority that Bush and her colleagues will hopefully continue to press them on. At the risk of sounding too optimistic, it’s also a valuable precedent for when the progressive caucus tries to throw its weight around on other issues, which Jones alluded to in a post-victory tweet.
All of this is a good reminder that where there is a will there is a way, but usually that will needs to be coerced. As recently as Monday, the Biden administration was sadly waving its hands as the CDC refused to test a Supreme Court decision that hinted that the court might forbid an extension of the moratorium. I don’t doubt that the Biden administration would have extended the moratorium if it represented no risk, but I find it hard to believe they’d have leaned this hard on the CDC were it not for Bush’s snowballing movement. At some point, the act that critics lazily called “performative” changed the political calculus inside the administration enough that risking an almost certain tangle with Trump’s Supreme Court became preferable to ignoring Bush’s vigil on the steps. If that’s not power, I don’t know what is.