Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise grilled the Centers for Disease Control head Tom Frieden over bans on travel from Ebola-stricken countries and whether the White House has even spoken to the CDC about the matter.
Scalise repeatedly questioned Frieden, who’s effectively heading the administration’s response to Ebola, about whether the White House has discussed the possibility of a travel ban with the CDC.
“Have y’all had any conversations within the White House about a travel ban, and whether or not the President has the authority, because many of us have said the President does have the authority to do it today,” Scalise asked during a House Energy and Commerce committee hearing on the response to Ebola.
“From the point of the view of the CDC, we’re willing to consider anything,” Frieden said, repeating his standard response about flights coming from Ebola-affected countries.
“But have you considered it and have you ruled it out, or have you not considered it at all?” Scalise pressed on, but Frieden did not answer. “Have you had conversations with the White House about a travel ban?”
“We have discussed many aspects — ” Frieden began, but was cut off by Scalise, asking yet again, “How about a travel ban?”
The CDC chief eventually admitted that they’ve spoken about the issue, but refused to confirm whether the White House checked with the disease control agency’s experts about halting flights.
“We’ve had discussions about the issue of travel to and from West Africa,” Frieden finally replied.
Scalise pressed Frieden over whether it’s active in giving the White House recommendations on what actions to take on travel between West African countries and the United States from a public health perspective, but Frieden would not say for certain what its interaction with the White House has consisted of so far.
The two sparred again over whether the CDC’s protocols for dealing with Ebola were breached by the two Dallas nurses who contracted the disease from a Liberian man they were treating, Thomas Duncan. Frieden initially said last week that the protocols were breached, but he refused to confirm that statement upon Scalise’s questioning.