That law, the challengers wrote, was concerned with quarantines and inspections to stop the spread of disease and did not bestow on the agency “the unqualified power to take any measure imaginable to stop the spread of communicable disease — whether eviction moratoria, worship limits, nationwide lockdowns, school closures or vaccine mandates.”
The C.D.C. responded that the moratorium was authorized by the 1944 law. Evictions would accelerate the spread of the coronavirus, the agency said, by forcing people “to move, often into close quarters in new shared housing settings with friends or family, or congregate settings such as homeless shelters.”
The moratorium, the administration told the justices, was broadly similar to quarantine. “It would be strange to hold that the government may combat infection by prohibiting the tenant from leaving his home,” its brief said, “but not by prohibiting the landlord from throwing him out.”
The case was complicated by congressional action in December, when lawmakers briefly extended the C.D.C.’s moratorium through the end of January in an appropriations measure. When Congress took no further action, the agency again imposed moratoriums under the 1944 law.
In its Supreme Court brief, the government argued that it was significant that Congress had embraced the agency’s action, if only briefly.
The central legal question in the case was whether the agency was entitled to act on its own. In June, with the earlier moratorium about to expire, the court voted 5 to 4 in favor of the administration, allowing that measure to stand.
But that victory was distinctly provisional. Justice Kavanaugh, who voted with the majority, wrote that he had cast his vote reluctantly and had taken account of the then-impending expiration of the earlier moratorium.