Worcester v. Georgia was the 1832 Supreme Court decision that defined the relationships between the states, the federal government, and Indian tribes. But President Andrew Jackson didn’t have much use for it. Chief Justice “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it,” Jackson supposedly said after the decision.
Indeed, in a constitutional republic like America, respect for the rule of law and the Constitution are the only means the court has to enforce its will. There are no armies to back up the Supreme Court when they issue a ruling. High- and low-born alike must bend the knee when the Supreme Court speaks because that’s how the rule of law works.
President Jackson’s words come to mind when contemplating Joe Biden’s decision to ignore the court’s ruling in June that scoffed at the notion that the Centers for Disease Control could legally enforce a ban on evictions because of a public health crisis. Biden — half apologetically — announced he would willfully defy the high court.
What makes Biden’s decision to order the CDC to reimpose the ban on evictions so sad is that there is no grand constitutional issue or weighty legal matter hanging in the balance. It’s a federal housekeeping matter. In the case of a moratorium on evictions, the CDC should give way to Congress, which by long tradition and precedent regulates interstate commerce.
But democracy is very hard and the left just doesn’t do “hard.” It’s so much easier to pressure a doddering old fool like Biden to go ahead and defy the Supreme Court than to actually do the scut work necessary to make everything nice and legal and get Congress to act.
The president himself knows that the ban is illegal. He knows that the Supreme Court — which jealously protects its perks and prerogatives — is likely to unanimously strike down his extralegal moratorium. And Congress, which is busy spending trillions of dollars we don’t have, is not likely to act.
It is telling that Congress, which has been happy to spend trillions of dollars fighting COVID-19, has nevertheless declined to change the law — perhaps because, the legalities aside, it has realized that the moratorium is making a mess of its others. One of the core aims of the various relief bills that have been signed since last year has been to prevent unemployed Americans from getting behind on their bills — including rent — during periods in which they were unable to work. And yet, by adding an eviction moratorium on top of its spending — and, thereby, by deferring rent arrears into the future — the federal government has managed simultaneously to limit the immediate demand for its $46.6 billion rent-assistance program, to discourage renters from finding work, and to ensure that the brunt of both problems will be felt by the millions of small-time landlords who do not have access to the Treasury’s largesse.
Most landlords are not the greedy, heartless Snidely Whiplash caricatures they are painted as by the radical left. Most are small businessmen with mortgages that have to be paid, properties to be maintained, and taxes that can’t be avoided. The “crisis” in rental housing has two sides. But you’d never know it listening to the hysterical rantings of radicals.
There is still $47 billion in money already appropriated by Congress for the purposes of rent relief. Incredibly, that money remains unspent because of rules and red tape that make it difficult if not impossible for some renters in need to access the cash.
Maybe instead of these illegal, extraconstitutional grandiose gestures like an eviction moratorium by Biden and his radical masters, the left could work to unfreeze that money from the states. That way, the renters get to stay in their homes, and landlords get what they’re owed.
Is that too much to ask?