GOP leaders call on Pelosi to pull travel ban bill over coronavirus

GOP leaders call on Pelosi to pull travel ban bill over coronavirus
© Greg Nash

House Republican leaders are calling on Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Emanuel to take hot seat in Senate confirmation hearing Fixing Congress requires fixing how it legislates MORE (D-Calif.) to pull a bill that would rescind President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE’s controversial travel ban, arguing it could hinder the administration’s ability to limit the number of individuals entering the U.S. from countries that have faced widespread outbreaks of coronavirus.

House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseLiz Cheney is the Margaret Chase Smith of our time GOP's embrace of Trump's false claims creates new perils House GOP campaign arm raises .8 million in third quarter MORE (R-La.) said on Tuesday that while he believes the Democratic-led bill, which is slated to come to the floor this week, is “bad policy” that limits the administration’s ability to vet potential terrorists, it could also have unintended consequences in spreading the virus. The Louisiana Republican cited Trump’s decision to limit the number of people coming in from China as a necessary precaution amid early reports of the widespread outbreak in that country, telling reporters the bill could create obstacles for officials looking to prevent the spread of the disease.

“I know there is one piece of legislation that's scheduled for the floor this week that I would urge Speaker Pelosi to pull back on, and that is the No Ban Act. You saw at the very beginning of this, President Trump was able to take quick action when so many cases were coming out of China, and we still don't know enough about the genesis of this disease in China and how it may have started there,” Scalise told reporters.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Unfortunately, they didn't share enough information with us as quickly, where we could have done more things earlier. But at the same time, the president was able to take quick action to limit the number of people coming in from China that had exposure to coronavirus, but the No Ban Act would make it more difficult for the president to keep Americans safe by addressing needs as we see other countries like Iran — you're seeing a large, potential large outbreak in Iran — Iran is one of those countries that we currently have a travel ban on because they don't allow us to properly vet that terrorists aren't coming into our country.”

In addition to calling on Democratic leadership to refrain from bringing the legislation up for a vote, Scalise said Republicans are working to ensure the resources to respond to the outbreak are readily available.

“The president ought to be able to keep potential terrorists from coming into our country, but now with this outbreak of coronavirus, the president also needs to have all the tools available to limit, people coming in from countries with a high propensity of coronavirus,” he continued.

“You wouldn't want legislation that would make it more difficult. Hopefully, that bill gets pulled this week, but in the meantime, we need to continue to do all that we can to ensure that the administration has the tools they need, and we're working together to inform the public, of the various precautions that they can take as we're trying to find a vaccine.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyFixing Congress requires fixing how it legislates Schiff: McCarthy 'will do whatever Trump tells him' if GOP wins back House House GOP campaign arm raises .8 million in third quarter MORE (R-Calif.) echoed Scalise’s sentiments, arguing the timing of the travel ban bill vote would be inappropriate.

“Steve talked about this just earlier — if there’s one thing that the Speaker should look at, it's not to move forward on the No Ban Act,” he said at the news conference.

“This will harm the ability for this country to continue to keep us safe. It is the wrong time, wrong place and wrong legislation to even be talking about.”

The No Ban Act aims to rein in Trump’s ability to “suspend or restrict aliens from entering the United States” and limit the administration from putting in place similar bans in the future. It also includes language that would prevent “religious discrimination in various immigration-related decisions, such as whether to issue an immigrant or non-immigrant visa, with certain exceptions.”

Trump issued the initial travel ban on seven majority-Muslim countries in 2017, which was met with strong pushback from Democrats, who argued it was discriminatory and unconstitutional, and faced a series of legal challenges. He then expanded it earlier this year to include Nigeria, Eritrea, Tanzania, Sudan, Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar.