Progressive Democrats are hailing their victory in a fight with the White House over extending the eviction moratorium as a “turning point” in their often tumultuous relationship with the Biden administration.
After days of insisting he didn’t have the legal authority to extend the ban, which protected about 15 million Americans from being thrown out of their homes, President Biden abruptly caved to progressive demands Tuesday and revived the lapsed moratorium.
For Republicans, the president’s action is the latest example of how Mr. Biden has become beholden to the far left, which they predicted during last year’s campaign.
“It’s clear [progressives] exercise total control over Biden and his agenda,” a House GOP aide said Wednesday. “Everything he does — from stripping Hyde protections, putting up an anti-gun activist to lead the ATF, embracing socialism … is catered to the far left and their policy goals.”
Both sides wonder if the eviction ban revival is a signal Mr. Biden will veer even further left, as progressives become energized by their success and ramp-up pressure.
It was a major triumph for progressives, who have won as much as they’ve lost in the Biden administration.
They’ve been frustrated with his refusal to eliminate the filibuster and cancel student loan debt. Mr. Biden has also exasperated the far left by failing to take a more aggressive stance on legislation that would overhaul policing in America, and his willingness to scale down his infrastructure and jobs bills to appease Republicans and moderates.
But Mr. Biden has also embraced activists’ call for a $15 minimum wage, expanding Medicare, and appointing members of the party’s far-left wing to top positions in the White House and federal agencies.
Democrats say Mr. Biden‘s reversal on the eviction ban is a sign of his willingness to work with anyone to find common ground.
“I think this is a win for the country, and I don’t see it as a moderate vs. progressive thing,” said Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright.
Rep. Cori Bush, Missouri Democrat and an outspoken progressive, slept on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to call attention to the plight of evicted tenants. Over the weekend, other far-left Democrats and activists joined her, cheering on her protest.
The Capitol campout put pressure on the Biden administration to respond, forcing it to float a targeted eviction ban that even the president himself doubts can withstand legal scrutiny.
Still, there is no question the tactic forced the administration to move.
“Cori Bush had to have some impact,” said Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. “The president and his staff had to wake up every morning thinking about how they were going to placate the left-wing of the party. I think that any time the progressive wing pushes back, they take note of it in the White House.”
Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist, said progressives can keep these efforts up, but an evenly divided Senate limits just how successful their strategy can be.
“They can try, but they are going into a reality in the Senate where they can’t get anything done,” he said. “Until the filibuster is changed or modified, they are going to keep running into a roadblock that is the Senate. Much of what the progressives are looking for is going to die a painful death in the Senate.”
The progressive influence on the Biden administration will be put to the test this fall. They want to make sure Mr. Biden’s infrastructure and social spending bills are passed, but some fret their legislative priorities could be cast aside to win Republicans’ support.
Progressives worry that spending on social plans could be reduced, or a proposed pathway to citizenship, or provisions to combat climate change included in a separate spending bill, could be cast aside.
But Republicans and moderate Democrats have expressed concern about the spending bill, which comes with a $3.5 trillion price tag.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona Democrat and among her party’s moderate members, has said she won’t support it. That puts the onus on Mr. Biden to keep the peace within his party.
“There is going to be a lot of back-and-forth on Biden‘s part that he‘s going to have to be negotiating with that [progressive] wing of the party and try to hold to the midterms,” Ms. Perry said. “Anytime he does give in to the progressives, it will be good news for the left, but it will be bad news because it gives another arrow to the GOP‘s quiver.”
Mr. Manley says he expects the progressives will ultimately be disappointed in the final results of both spending bills.
“The White House is going to have to make some tough decisions and progressives aren’t going to like it,” he said. “They are not getting $3.5 trillion and that’s the case, a lot of people are going to be upset.”