Republican House members from the Inland Northwest say the United States should consider travel restrictions for West African countries to guard against the spread of Ebola, but their Democratic challengers say that’s the wrong course of action.
Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers wants the Obama administration to consider “immediate travel restrictions” from Liberia and other countries fighting the Ebola outbreak, with a temporary ban on visas for people in areas most affected by the virus.
“I expect the administration and Centers for Disease Control to act swiftly and aggressively not only to combat this epidemic but also gain the trust and confidence of the American people every step of the way,” she said in a statement.
Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador would go even farther, he said in his weekly newsletter, with a ban on commercial travel from West Africa while allowing aid workers to journey to the area. “Halting travel will help contain the disease, dispel fear among Americans and give the government and health care providers time to take additional steps to prevent any further spread of the virus.”
Joe Pakootas, the Democrat running against McMorris Rodgers in Eastern Washington’s 5th District, said Congress should leave the decision to medical professionals, who right now are not calling for a travel ban, in part because the nation would have to clamp down on every entrance into the country. It also could prompt people to take indirect routes and be harder to trace.
“It shouldn’t be a political football, like it’s turning out to be,” Pakootas said.
State Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, who is challenging Labrador in Idaho’s 1st District, said she thought the United States was “a long way” from considering travel restrictions, which she doubted would work for practical considerations. People would start coming by less direct routes, she said, and eventually the United States would have to restrict flights from many more countries.
It makes more sense to stress protocols that identify people who might be ill and deal with them, she said. “Congressman Labrador’s suggestion really borders on panic.”
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