Republican lawmakers on Sunday continued to pile on President Obama’s refusal to ban flights from West Africa amid the Ebola crisis. They also blasted his appointment of former White House official Ron Klain to coordinate the U.S. response to the deadly virus.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, where multiple people have been infected with Ebola, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Obama’s “biggest mistake” is continuing to allow open commercial flights. “We need to take a common-sense stand of suspending commercial air travel out of these countries … And for whatever reason, the Obama White House doesn’t want to,” he said.
GOP Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania repeated the call for a ban on “Fox News Sunday,” going so far as to say “this is like dealing with terrorism,” adding, “We have to be right 100% of the time, and Ebola only has to get in once.”
Several conservatives, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry and House Speaker John Boehner, have also called on Obama to issue a temporary travel ban.
President Obama has revved up airport security screening in both the U.S. and West Africa. Critics of a travel ban say the measure would be ineffective and could result in civil unrest, or the virus spreading into other parts of Africa, and could create a barrier to aid workers trying to get supplies into the afflicted areas.
With just 16 days before the midterm elections, the Ebola outbreak has become a focal point on the campaign trail. Several Democrats have been arguing that Republican-led budget cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have resulted in the U.S. not having all the resources it needs. Many on the right , meanwhile, are pointing their fingers at Obama, saying he is not being aggressive enough in taking steps to prevent Ebola from spreading.
Several conservative lawmakers on Sunday also reiterated their concerns that Klain – who served as chief of staff to both Vice President Joe Biden and former Vice President Al Gore – does not have a background in medicine or infectious diseases, experience they argue is needed to be a so-called Ebola “czar.”
Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that she wasn’t sure what kind of “emergency response experience” Klain has, sarcastically adding, “maybe the Bush-Gore recount qualified in that.”
Cruz made the same point on CNN, criticizing Obama’s pick as “not a doctor, he’s not a health care professional, he doesn’t have background in these issues.” He added: “We don’t need a White House political operative, which is what Mr. Klain has been.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, hit back, saying on ABC’s “This Week” that such rhetoric was “misplaced criticism.” Fauci praised Klain’s “extraordinary managerial leadership” and said Klain will rely on medical experts like himself and Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Obama made the appointment on Friday following calls on both side of the political aisle that he appoint an Ebola czar to help coordinate the U.S. response to the crisis.
Separately, Fauci described the medical condition of Nina Pham, the 26-year-old Ebola-infected nurse who was flown from Dallas to a National Institutes of Health isolation unit in Maryland, as “fair” on “Fox News Sunday.” When asked if she is expected to make a full recovery, he said, “You always hate to predict when you have a very serious disease like this but I’m feeling good about the fact that she’s progressing very well.”
Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced on Sunday that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered the creation of a 30-person expeditionary medical support team in the event that short-notice assistance is necessary for additional cases of Ebola. The team will consist of 20 critical care nurses, five doctors who specialize in infectious diseases and five trainers in infectious disease protocols.