Lawmakers Seek US Ban on Travelers From Ebola-Stricken Region
House speaker says he may recall lawmakers to take action.
— -- A growing chorus of lawmakers is calling on President Obama to impose travel restrictions on passengers coming to the U.S. from West African countries stricken by Ebola.
On Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner became the highest-ranking Republican lawmaker to ask the president to consider a travel ban.
“A temporary ban on travel to the United States from countries afflicted with the virus is something that the president should absolutely consider along with any other appropriate actions as doubts about the security of our air travel systems grow,” Boehner wrote in a statement Wednesday evening. “The administration must be able to assure Americans that we will stop the spread here at home."
Boehner also pledged to call the House back into session “if it becomes clear legislation is needed to ensure the threat is countered aggressively and effectively.”
"We will continue to press the administration for better information about what steps will be taken to protect the American people, including our troops, from this deadly virus," he continued. "And we will work with the administration on appropriate policy options that will help stop the spread of this horrific disease both here in the United States and around the globe.”
Boehner joins lawmakers including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., in calling for a travel ban.
"Banning flights from the afflicted countries is a prudent, common-sense step until the epidemic is brought under control," Cruz wrote in an op-ed Wednesday.
The travel ban is also being floated on the campaign trail by Republican Senate candidates, including Joni Ernst in Iowa and David Perdue in Georgia.
While most of the calls for travel ban are coming from the Republican side, a small group of Democrats, including Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have called for the restrictions.
The White House has said it is not currently considering placing restrictions on travelers from West African countries.
"That's something that is not on the table at this point,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday. “Shutting down travel to that area of the world would prevent the expeditious flow of personnel and equipment into the region, and the only way for us to stop this outbreak and to eliminate any risk from Ebola to the American public is to stop this outbreak at the source.”
“We are mobilizing significant resources to make sure that supplies and personnel can get to the affected region and start meeting the needs of the affected region so that we can stop the outbreak there. And that's why, right now, the travel ban is not on the table,” he added.
After a two-hour emergency meeting with his team at the White House Wednesday, President Obama said the U.S., with the help of the international community, must focus on containing the “raging epidemic” in West Africa in order to prevent Ebola from spreading back home.
“I am absolutely confident that we can prevent a serious outbreak of the disease here in the United States. But it becomes more difficult to do so if this epidemic of Ebola rages out of control in West Africa. If it does, then it will spread globally in an age of, you know, frequent travel and, you know, the kind of constant interactions that people have across borders,” Obama said. “It is very important for us to understand that the investment we make in helping Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea deal with this problem is an investment in our own public health.”
The House Energy and Commerce Committee will interrupt the campaign season Thursday to hold a hearing featuring Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
So far, at least one member of Congress, Rep. Tom Marino, is calling for Frieden's resignation.
"This Ebola situation is beginning to spiral beyond control," Marino, R-Pa., warned Wednesday. "The reports my colleagues and I have received are utterly unacceptable and the information provided to the public has been cryptic and in some cases misleading. This has provided a false sense of security to many of our citizens. That is exactly the opposite of the CDC Director’s primary responsibilities – to communicate clearly and honestly. I have no ill will towards him personally but he should resign his position effective immediately."