The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee does not think it is necessary to reconvene Congress and hold emergency hearings on the Ebola mission in West Africa, despite comments by two top generals raising concerns about the safety of the American troops deployed to fight the lethal virus.
Claude Chafin, a spokesman for the House armed services panel, told Breitbart News that comments made by Gen. David Rodriguez, the commander of the U.S. Africa Command, and Gen. Darryl Williams, the commander of U.S. Army Africa, are inconsistent with the briefings the committee has received from the Pentagon.
According to Chafin, the Department of Defense (DoD) has been diligent in keeping House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) informed about the mission.
“With the kind of response he is getting from DoD, with the kind of information he is getting from DoD, [the chairman] does not think calling people back and having an Ebola hearing is warranted because DoD like I said is being very, very responsive to our inquiries,” Chafin explained.
Nevertheless, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), the third-ranking member of the committee’s majority, thinks Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) should call the House back to debate the Ebola mission in West Africa on the floor.
“I think Speaker Boehner ought to let us debate this issue of the president’s authority to bypass Congress to go whether it be Africa to fight Ebola or the bombing in Syria without coming to Congress,” Congressman Jones told Breitbart News. “This is just another example of my concerns of the president’s lack of respect for the Constitution and the Congress.”
“The men and women who joined the military did not join to become public health cops. I want to make sure that our military is being protected, given all the resources of protection, and I want to know what the role is of our military of 4,000 people,” he added. “I want to see more details of what they’re supposed to be doing. So to me, Mr. Boehner should call us back after the election or before the election, but I think it is not going to happen to be honest about it.”
According to Rep. Jones, the safety of the troops deployed to West Africa is what concerns him the most about the Ebola mission.
“This goes back to meeting our constitutional responsibilities as members of Congress,” he said.
Speaker John Boehner’s office declined to comment on this story.
During a Pentagon press briefing on October 7, Gen. Rodriguez said the majority of the troops being deployed on the Ebola mission, up to 4,000, will not get the full body personal protective equipment (PPE).
“The personal protective gear, the majority of the people will just deploy with personal protective gear that includes gloves and masks and things like that,” the general told reporters. “They don’t need the whole suit, as such, because they’re not going to be in contact with any of the people.”
Gen. Williams, during an October 16 Pentagon press briefing, said that U.S. soldiers who contract the deadly virus would be quarantined in Liberia.
“They would be quarantined and then we would synchronize and work those actions so they would go back to the appropriate medical facility,” he said.
The spokesman for the House armed services panel told Breitbart News what the generals said are “not consistent” with the briefings that Chairman McKeon has been receiving from the Pentagon.
“The Committee has been briefed that everyone deploying will be given full PPE,” said Chafin. “What troops use can be based on what their mission is in the country and who they will be in contact with. We have also asked the Department to clarify the General’s comments.”
“As for quarantine, there will certainly be some initial treatment in isolation in Liberia until transportation can be coordinated for treatment in the United States,” he continued, “but DoD has been very clear that treatment of any troops that contract Ebola will take place in the United States.”
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a Breitbart News request for comment.
Although Congress is currently not in session due to the November mid-term elections, some House committees have held emergency hearings on other facets of the Ebola outbreak.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on October 16 to examine the U.S. public health response to the outbreak.
On October 10, the House Committee on Homeland Security held a field hearing in Texas on entitled, “Ebola in the Homeland: The Importance of Effective International, Federal, State and Local Coordination.”