Senior Republicans: Ebola travel restrictions not enough

Top Republicans say the Obama administration’s new Ebola restrictions do not go far enough and are pressing for a full travel ban.

The leaders of three House committees on Tuesday renewed calls for President Obama to suspend U.S. visas for anyone traveling from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, where more than 4,500 people have died from Ebola.

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Their call was made just hours after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its first steps to restrict travel from West Africa. Anyone traveling from the three affected countries must now be screened and documented at one of five U.S. airports before entering the country. A passenger with exposure to Ebola could be quarantined.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said new restrictions from the DHS were "a good start," but not sufficient to protect Americans.

“Funneling all passengers through these five airports helps close a gap that could have allowed affected travelers into our country with no screening at all," Upton said in a statement. "But certainly not a complete solution."

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteBob GoodlatteGOP rebuffs call to uphold Obama veto Internal memo: Refugee program vulnerable to fraud Sen. Thune slams Dems for protecting Internet transition MORE (R-Va.) said it is widely accepted that the current screenings would not have prevented Ebola from entering the country last month.

The first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., Thomas Eric Duncan, was a Liberian national who was cleared to fly because he did not present symptoms while boarding. He also reportedly did not truthfully answer questions about his exposure to Ebola.

“I’m glad that the Obama administration is showing more concern about the possibility of people infected with Ebola entering the United States and spreading this deadly disease," Goodlatte said in a statement. "But the administration must do more to protect Americans."

Goodlatte urged the administration to stop issuing visas to travelers from those countries, a call echoed by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate — Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) and Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioObama nominates ambassador to Cuba Rubio praises Marlins pitcher José Fernández on Senate floor Glenn Beck: I was wrong about Ted Cruz MORE (R-Fla.) — are already planning to introduce bills to ban travel from the Ebola-stricken countries by cutting off visas.

There are no direct flights between those countries and the U.S., which has some federal health officials skeptical about how effective any restrictions would be. The deadly disease first arrived in the U.S. through an international flight in September, and has since infected two Americans.

Another leading GOP lawmaker, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), also blasted the new regulations as insufficient protections against Ebola.

"While the administration describes this announcement as new travel restrictions, they are nothing of the sort. The only 'restriction' is which airport a traveler from an Ebola hot zone may land at when they arrive in the United States," Murphy said. He chairs the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

"To fully protect the American public, the administration must advance concrete travel restrictions that include a quarantine coupled with an immediate ban on all non-essential commercial travel from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone," he said.