Rep. Cori Bush woke up Saturday morning with a message to her Congressional colleagues, come back to work so we can prevent mass evictions. The Missouri representative led a group who slept outside on the Capitol steps Friday night to call attention to the House recess ahead of the CDC moratorium’s expiration Saturday night.
Joined by Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar, Bush said her night out on the steps went better than it would for someone, given her support system and access to a safe location, food, and bathroom access.
“When I was unhoused, I felt, I was very unsafe, my children were unsafe,” Bush explained in an interview with D.C. independent journalist Chuck Modiano. “The lives of actual people that we’re supposed to represent…like human beings actually are at risk by this policy decision or the lack of one. So, we’re out here.”
Still seated on the Capitol steps as the afternoon rolled around, Bush led an Instagram Live conversation with Jonathan Van Ness, and later, Sen. Elizabeth Warren joined Bush in person. In response to questions, both women expressed a desire to see the CDC take action and extend the moratorium before the midnight expiration.
Warren also stressed the money for housing assistance that is still sitting on the table.
“And remember, Congress allocated $48 billion in order to make sure that landlords would get help and be able to help families,” said Warren. “The problem is it was a complicated program; people were under a lot of stress already because of COVID…so it’s taken a long time, longer in some states than others, but it’s taken a long time to get the wheels starting to turn to be able to push that money out.”
The senior senator from Massachusetts also noted that state and local infrastructure was inadequate in some areas to deal with the volume of assistance needed due to the pandemic. Unlike the House, the Senate remains in session.
“Right now, we still have 10s of billions of dollars that is unspent,” Warren continued. “I don’t want to spend that money after people have been moved out of their homes. I want to use that money to keep people in their homes.”
Chair of the House Rules Committee Rep. Jim McGovern joined Bush on the Capitol steps shortly after 4 pm on Saturday. McGovern told Bush the Rules Committee was willing to reconvene to take action on the moratorium.
Around 5 pm Bush and Pressley were joined by six House colleagues in a letter to the President and the CDC requesting unilateral action on extending the eviction moratorium. Pressley tweeted that while the group was still pushing for the House and Senate to take action, the urgency was necessary.
The lack of Congressional action punts the eviction crisis to state representatives and local elected officials, leaving a national crisis to be resolved in a piecemeal fashion. State and local eviction moratoriums adopted during the first few months of the pandemic have long since expired in many places.
Earlier in the week, Bush published an op-ed in Time magazine recounting her own experience with housing insecurity as a resident of the district she now represents.
“I think about how society wanted me to believe that being unhoused was my fault,” wrote Bush. “We have a deeply rooted misconception in our country that unhoused people have done something to deserve their conditions ─ when the reality is that unhoused people are living the consequences of our government’s failure to secure the basic necessities people need to survive.”
In her afternoon remarks from the Capitol steps, Bush again stressed the real human impact of failed action on the needed policy. She questioned the logic of adding a possible 7 million more people to those who are already without housing.
“We are already fighting a battle and losing a battle because there are people who slept out last night, the night before,” Bush said. “We don’t have enough of shelters. We don’t have the safe housing for them right now. And that’s a failure. That’s another moral failure on our society.”