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Opinion: The Fourth Branch Of Government Is On Its Way To Displacing Congress

Opinion: The Fourth Branch Of Government Is On Its Way To Displacing Congress

Washington Post columnist George F. Will questions the authority and validity of the CDC’s recent eviction moratorium.

The CDC’s order protects tenants earning up to $99,000 — almost quadruple the official poverty line of $26,200 for a family of four. Or, for those filing joint tax returns, tenants earning up to $198,000, who are in the top quintile of U.S. households. Tenants must inform their landlords in writing that they have sought government assistance, that they have lost income or received substantial uncompensated medical expenses, and that eviction would render them homeless or would result in their living elsewhere “in close quarters.” Noncompliant landlords can be fined up to $100,000 and incarcerated for up to a year.

Congress is, as usual, a bystander. A regulation promulgated by the executive branch grants vast — almost limitless, the CDC clearly thinks — discretion to an executive branch bureaucrat, the CDC director, when acting to contain any “communicable” disease, such as a seasonal flu, spread by “infectious agents.” If the director deems state regulations “insufficient,” he or she may “take such measures to prevent such spread of the diseases as he/she deems reasonably necessary, including inspection, fumigation, disinfection, sanitation, pest extermination, and destruction of animals or articles believed to be sources of infection.”

And, if today’s director is correct, the director is authorized to curtail some property rights and abrogate some contracts nationwide, to suspend some state laws and strip state courts of jurisdiction in eviction cases. The authority for this regulation is presumably — this presumption is the foundation of constitutional government — somehow traceable back to an implied (it certainly is not explicit) constitutional delegation of power. But how does this empower an executive branch agency to overturn state laws governing contracts?

Read more here.

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