WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats scrambled Thursday to find a way to prevent a federal eviction moratorium from expiring in two days, mounting a last-minute effort as fears spread about the economic impact of a new resurgence of the coronavirus.

Biden called on Congress to act “without delay” to extend the eviction moratorium, which applies to renters who have fallen behind on their monthly payments as a result of financial hardship. Top White House aides fretted the administration could not act on its own as a result of a recent, adverse Supreme Court ruling.

The moratorium had last been extended one month ago and little had been done in recent weeks to advance another extension through Congress.

Still, Biden’s request prompted House and Senate Democrats to begin exploring whether they could rally enough votes to approve the new protections for renters. It remains unclear if Congress has the time and support to act ahead of the current July 31 deadline.

In a statement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would have “strongly supported” a move by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to again extend a moratorium that began nearly 11 months ago in response to the pandemic, particularly given the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus.

“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available,” Psaki said, referring to a court ruling from last month.


That order allowed the moratorium could remain in place for another month. But Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who supplied the controlling vote, said that in his view congressional action would be needed to extend it beyond Saturday. Despite that, Biden has faced pressure from some Democrats to act unilaterally.

“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,” Psaki said, calling the ban on evictions “a critical backstop to prevent hard-pressed renters and their families who lost jobs or income due to the COVID-19 pandemic from being evicted for nonpayment of rent.”

In response, House Democratic leaders started canvassing the chamber for votes on Thursday to determine if they had enough support to extend the moratorium until December 31, according to a senior party aide, who requested anonymity to describe the leadership’s thinking. Democrats aim to bring up the measure before departing this week.

In the Senate, meanwhile, party lawmakers led by Majority Leader Charles Schumer, N.Y., and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, leader of the chamber’s top housing panel, started preparing their own last-ditch attempt to extend the moratorium on Thursday. They seek to approve it under unanimous consent, according to two senior Democratic aides, a tough proposition given potential Republican objections to the idea.

Brown “supports an extension of the eviction moratorium and will work with Leader Schumer to pass legislation that will allow our nation’s renters to stay in their homes during this crisis,” a spokesman for Brown said Thursday.

As Congress eyed a potential legislative solution, Psaki also said Biden has asked the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, and Veterans Affairs to extend separate, more limited eviction moratoriums currently in place through the end of September, a move that would provide continuing protection for households in federally insured, single-family properties.


Psaki said Biden is also calling on states and localities to “urgently accelerate” the availability of emergency rental assistance funding that was included in a previous federal rescue package but has not yet been fully distributed.

“The Administration remains committed to doing everything in its power to keep people safely and securely housed, which is essential to the health, well-being and dignity of all of us,” she said.

After a congressional moratorium on evictions expired last summer, President Donald Trump ordered the CDC to step in. It issued an order in September, citing its power to take emergency actions to stop the infection’s spread. It said it applied to tenants who, if evicted, would probably become homeless or be forced to live in close quarters in a congregate or shared-living setting.

On June 24, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky extended the eviction moratorium from June 30 until July 31. At the time, the CDC said that “this is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium.”

The Washington Post’s Robert Barnes contributed to this report.