The Supreme Court this week rightly put the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on notice that the agency doesn’t have the vast powers it claims.
Yes, the high court’s 5-4 decision allowed the CDC’s eviction ban to live on for its last month — but only because Justice Brett Kavanaugh took the pragmatic stance that ending it early would be too disruptive.
The bulk of his concurring opinion agreed with the arguments of the landlords who sued for an immediate end of the moratorium the CDC imposed last year and extended multiple times without congressional approval. Kavanaugh said the agency had blatantly overstepped its legal authority; future bans require actual legislation from Congress.
The agency argued that federal regulations under the Public Health Service Act allowed it to set the ban, but those laws only cover disease-control measures. And the CDC made a huge stretch to justify the ban in that context — claiming that evictions would lead to more people being homeless, in turn increasing the spread of COVID-19.
If that multistep logic held, the agency would have the power to order any behavior in the name of fighting disease: Unhealthy diets make people more vulnerable, so shut down fast-food joints and sugary-soda plants!
A public-health emergency can justify extreme measures like quarantines, but that doesn’t empower bureaucrats to act as lawmakers. It’s still a free country.