Byline: Brian Hughes
A growing number of Republicans are calling for the U.S. to issue travel restrictions in and out of West Africa, a thorny political issue that is gaining momentum in the wake of the first Ebola case diagnosed in the United States.
The Obama administration thus far has resisted calls for flight limits, even as health officials monitor up to 100 people who potentially came in contact with Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, recently diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration asking whether the agency was considering ways to clamp down on travel to and from the nations most heavily affected by Ebola.
“Due to the Obama administration's unclear approach to addressing the threat of the Ebola virus, Americans — particularly the Texans who have possibly been exposed — deserve specific answers to how the administration is addressing travel to and from the countries impacted by the disease,” Cruz wrote.
A state lawmaker in North Carolina running for U.S. Senate made a similar argument.
“Keeping the American people safe must be our nation’s top priority, and the White House should immediately ban travel from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to contain the spread of Ebola,” added state House Speaker Thom Tillis, the Republican Senate candidate in North Carolina.
A month ahead of the November midterms, Republicans are framing travel restrictions as a national-security issue, accusing the White House of not doing everything it could to protect the homeland.
However, administration officials argue that such actions could do more harm than good.
"It's a tough question that's coming up and will keep coming up," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden said in a briefing with reporters. "Our perspective — very much like the situation with regard to the individual — is to take actions that seem like they may work. The approach of isolating countries — it's harder to get help into that country and it may enable the disease to spread more widely there and potentially become more of a risk to us here."
That answer won’t assuage GOP concerns.
“Travel arrangements need to be addressed and they need to be restricted,” Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., said at a women’s event on Thursday.
And Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, told Frieden in a letter that the “recent Ebola case in Dallas highlights the fact that non-essential travel to the affected region is putting Americans at unnecessary risk.”