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Republican Senate hopefuls embrace Ebola travel ban

GOP Senate candidates are using the Ebola virus to attack President Obama, putting Democrats in the uneasy position of having to defend an unpopular president in battleground states.

{mosads}Republicans in Senate battleground races including Kansas, North Carolina and Colorado are calling for travel restrictions against countries where the Ebola virus has spread in West African countries. 

Others are linking the Ebola virus to border security and other national security concerns, hitting Democrats and a struggling White House as weak in their quest to flip the six seats they need to flip control of the upper chamber in November. 

“We has ISIS. We have Ebola. We have to secure the border. And we cannot have amnesty,” said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) during a debate Wednesday with his opponent, independent Greg Orman.

Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) traveled back to Washington on Thursday to attend a House hearing on the virus, taking a break from his campaign against Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.). 

A day earlier, Gardner used the debate to criticize Obama for his response to Ebola and calling for a travel ban.

“If the president’s not willing to put into place a travel ban, then we should have 100 percent screening of the people who are coming from those affected areas,” Gardner said at the debate. 

Udall was more cautious during the debate.

“We ought to be able to listen to the doctors and the healthcare professionals. If they believe that we ought to close our border and we ought to restrict flights to and from West Africa, let’s listen to them. But senators and congressmen shouldn’t be making those decisions,” Udall said.

He added: “We should be supporting the resources that are necessary to meet the Ebola challenge.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also pushed the idea of a travel ban; he’s in a race against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of State, but has gained momentum in recent days. 

“I’m not an expert on this, but it strikes me that it would be a good idea to discontinue flights from that part of the world,” the GOP leader told local television outlet cn|2 Pure Politics on Wednesday.

Grimes and other Democrats have responded by looking to blame Republicans for voting to cut funds for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is running ads knocking Republicans for the budget cuts, suggesting it’s made the Ebola crisis worse.

Still, Republicans were able to seize on the news of travel restrictions following reports Wednesday that a second U.S. nurse had contracted Ebola while treating a Liberian man at a Dallas-area hospital.

The nurse, 29-year-old Amber Vinson, flew from Cleveland to Dallas hours before she experienced Ebola-like symptoms, launching lawmakers’ calls for travel restrictions into overdrive. President Obama canceled planned campaign events for a second day to hold more meetings on Ebola on Thursday as more lawmakers call for travel bans

In New Hampshire, GOP Senate candidate Scott Brown called for travel restrictions in an interview earlier this week with a local radio station.

“We need a comprehensive approach and I think that [travel bans] should be part of it,” Brown told WGIR radio. “We have people coming into our country by legal means bringing in diseases and other potential challenges. Yet we have a border that so porous that anyone can walk across it.”

Brown, who is trailing Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), went on to call it “naive to think people aren’t going to be walking through here who have those types of diseases” with the same intent as a “criminal or terrorist.”

Earlier this month, North Carolina GOP hopeful Thom Tillis was the first Senate candidate in the nation to call for travel bans against West African countries impacted by the disease. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) has also signaled she’s open to travel bans.

At the debate, Tillis said Obama’s handling of Ebola is “another failure like the failure [on] ISIS, and a number of other policy issues where our safety and security is at risk.”  

Tags Cory Gardner Ebola Ebola travel ban Jeanne Shaheen Kay Hagan Mark Udall Mitch McConnell Pat Roberts

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