CDC Director Tells House Chairman Travel Ban Would Hurt W. African Economy

The chairman of the subcommittee that will be holding a high-profile hearing on the Ebola crisis today on the Hill said the CDC director told him that the administration fears a travel ban from affected countries would hurt fragile West African economies.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci will be testifying at the noontime Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing, along with officials from the FDA, Health and Human Services, and Department of Homeland Security.

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) told Fox last night that he was "initially" calling for the travel ban involving incoming passengers from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

"Look, when President Obama told us back in September that by screening people on airlines and telling flight attendants how to screen and what to watch out for and screening from Africa was going to work, it wasn't going to work. And we had that evidence right from the onset when Mr. Duncan and others -- I mean let's face it, if you had a chance to come to the United States for healthcare, would anybody tell the truth? And I think no. I would not trust that," Murphy said.

"The second thing is that if they are screening with these thermometers, you can mask that by taking some medication. You may be still carrying ebola but not symptomatic yet. That doesn't work. So it's two parts of this travel ban that I'm concerned about, making sure that American citizens have the right to return," he continued. "But there needs to be restrictions on where they can be. A quarantine, other travel bans domestically, not getting on planes and traveling around."

The White House confirmed yesterday that a travel ban is not on the table, and repeated the administration justification that the reason is to ensure an unimpeded flow of supplies and personnel into the region to battle the disease.

Murphy, though, said he talked with Frieden about a ban. "And he explained to me that what the concern was that these are fledgling democracies and if we put a travel ban that that may affect their economy and harm them," the congressman said.

"And I see it as, look, we can still move planes in and out there with supplies. We can do a lot. And we can help in every other way with economics. We can provide a lot of support to these nations. And the United States is doing it both to government and nongovernment organizations. A massive amount of charity is going to help these people as we should. But I just don't understand the concept of if we stop flights in travel that would be a problem. I think we need to do that because our first concern is, as he said, do no harm. "

Murphy said lawmakers today will grill Frieden on "where this policy is coming from."

"Every morning this president wakes up, his first concern should be the safety of our country -- whether it's ISIS, whether it's a disease, whether it's anything," he said. "That should be his concern every day. He doesn't need to appoint another czar. He doesn't need lead from behind. He doesn't need to appoint his way out of this. He needs to be the one."