Members of Congress, particularly in the Republican Party, have spent much of the past week loudly pushing the Obama administration to institute a travel ban from the three West African countries devastated by the Ebola outbreak, but they seem to be overlooking one crucial fact: There are no direct flights to the U.S. from those three countries.
The travel ban was the most frequent item of discussion during Thursday’s Congressional hearing on Ebola held by the Energy and Commerce Committee, where members of the Republican Party lined up to bash Dr. Thomas Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and anyone else they could get in front of a microphone, to explain why we haven’t instituted a travel ban from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
The health experts tried to painstakingly explain that such a ban would not work because people would just fly into the U.S. from other countries by indirect means. But as pointed out by New York Times reporter Jeremy W. Peters in an appearance on MSNBC Friday morning, there are no direct flights from those three countries to the U.S.
That fact came up during an appearance on the network by Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Florida), who has been leading the charge for a travel ban and who said he plans to introduce a bill doing so once Congress reconvenes in November.
“I believe we can nip this in the bud, if you will, at least by banning those flights temporarily until such time as the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] believes the epidemic is under control and also make sure we don’t issue visas to travelers from over there,” he said on national TV. “We have a good border patrol, believe it or not, and they can catch these people with fake passports and fake visas as they come across the border. It just seems to me we ought to have the debate on this and flush this out and that’s why I filed the bill to allow for the banning of these flights.”
“I believe there are some flights,” Ross said.
“There are no flights. There are no direct flights that come to the United States from West Africa. That is incorrect,” Peters, the Times reporter, responded.
“Then we don’t have any problem. Everybody’s contained, correct?” Ross responded sarcastically. “They are not. They are traveling. They are traveling.”
“It will not solve the problem,” he added of his bill. “It is a step in the right direction. We know what the source is. We know that they are traveling here.”
Ross wasn’t the only one pushing the ban. At least 40 members of Congress have gone on record pushing a ban, according to the Huffington Post.
“It needs to be solved in Africa, but until then, we should not be letting these people in, period,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Michigan), the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said during Thursday’s hearing.
“I restate my ongoing concern that administration officials still refuse to consider any travel restrictions for the more than 1,000 travelers entering the United States each week from Ebola hot zones,” said Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pennsylvania), who heads the subcommittee on oversight and investigations and led the hearing.
And then there was Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Virginia) pushing for a travel ban on dogs.
“Although we have not seen transmission of humans to dogs, we really don’t know if there can be,” Griffith said. “I understand the concerns about humanitarianism, et cetera, but don’t you think we should at least restrict travel on dogs?”
The bill being introduced by Ross would instruct the Federal Aviation Administration to “ban the arrival of any commercial aircraft from a foreign country in which the Ebola virus disease has reached epidemic proportions,” and restrict granting visas to people departing from any country afflicted by the outbreak.
“I urge my colleagues to sign onto this legislation and hope Speaker [John] Boehner will quickly call Congress back into session to debate my legislation,” Ross said.