WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republican lawmakers left a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing on the ongoing Ebola outbreak reiterating calls for travel restrictions and expressing concern with the amount of leadership on the matter to date.
“We are in a war without a general. And I don’t know if that is [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Tom] Frieden’s fault. I think that is [Health and Human Services Sylvia] Sec. Burwell and President Obama’s job. But you need a general, somebody calling the shots,” the subcommittee’s Vice Chairman Michael Burgess (R-TX) told reporters following the hearing.
According to Burgess there has simply been a dearth of leadership.
“It’s not happening at the White House, it’s not happening at the Department of Health and Human Services. It does need to happen,” the Texas lawmaker said, adding that he would like to see somebody with a military background take charge.
The subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA) stressed the need for travel restrictions and policies which “may amount to an inconvenience for some, the alternative is illness and deaths for some.”
Murphy added that he believes the White House has “all the tools necessary to make these decisions right now.”
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton reiterated calls for a travel ban as well.
The Obama administration has to date refused to impose travel restrictions on Ebola inflicted countries, despite mounting calls from lawmakers to do so. At Thursday’s hearing administration officials argued in part that restrictions could make it harder to track people who come to the U.S. from West Africa.
“Their reasons today are basically the same thing as saying, that we should make sure that all children with chickenpox stay in school so we know who they are,” Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said after the hearing. “It simply makes no sense. We must make sure we are protecting the American people by making sure that travel from the infected area is restricted.”
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) added that Obama must “immediately” institute a travel ban and said he left with many unanswered questions.
“I was disappointed that head of CDC would not discuss whether or not he’s had conversations with the White House about doing [travel restrictions] and if the White House has ruled out a travel ban,” he said.
Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) added “if ever there were a time for our president to take out his pen and his phone now is that time. Let’s put in place travel restrictions, let’s get to the bottom of this issue.”
When asked if he believes Frieden should step down, Murphy pointed instead to the White House.
“The leadership is at the White House. The president is the leader on this and the president needs to lead on this. Not from behind but very actively,” Murphy said, explaining that he believes Frieden should continue in his job at CDC.