During a Thursday congressional hearing, a shouting match erupted between GOP Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Dr. Anthony Fauci over COVID-19 restrictions when Jordan pressed Fauci on when Americans can expect things to return to normal, bringing up civil liberties.
“When is the time?” Jordan asked during House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus hearing titled “Reaching the Light at the End of the Tunnel: Ending COVID-19”. “When do Americans get their freedom back? We had 15 days to slow the spread, turned into a year of lost liberties.”
“When we get the level of infection in this country low enough that it is not a really high threat,” Fauci replied.
“What is low enough? Give me a number […] what metrics, what measures, what has to happen before Americans get their freedoms?” the Ohio Republican asked.
Fauci replied that his message was to make sure as many Americans as possible get vaccinated quickly “to get the level of infection in this country low that it is no longer a threat.”
Unsatisfied, Jordan continued to press him on this until Fauci took issue with the congressman’s framing of the issue as one of civil liberties.
“You’re indicating liberty and freedom. I look at it as a public health measure to prevent people from dying and going to hospital,” Fauci said, adding that life will return to normal when people get vaccinated.
“You don’t think Americans’ liberties have been threatened the last year, Dr. Fauci?” Jordan asked, raising his voice. “They’ve been assaulted!”
Later on, the congressman brought up the various types of COVID-19 restrictions that have been put in place throughout the pandemic—such as those on houses of worship, having guests in one’s home, and curfews—arguing that they violated people’s constitutional rights.
Subsequently, Jordan claimed people have been censored because they dared to disagree with Fauci, citing a video where physicians disagreed with Fauci’s positions. This led to Fauci to claim that the congressman was making things personal.
“It’s not a personal thing,” Jordan claimed, to which Fauci shouted back: “You are! That is exactly what you’re doing.”
After Jordan’s time expired, committee Chairman Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said that he would be pleased once 90% of Congress is vaccinated. This prompted the Ohio Republican to ask Fauci again for a specific standard.
“When? What are the numbers?” he asked.
“Right now we’re at an unacceptably high level,” Fauci said. “What you’re going to see as more and more people get vaccinated and we get over three million people a day, you’re going to see the level of infection come down and down, and gradually there will be more flexibility for doing the things that you’re talking about.”
Jordan continued to press him for a specific number. But, as Fauci started to give a response, the next committee member began to speak, thanking Clyburn.
“I’d like my question answered!” Jordan shouted, in response to which Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) yelled: “You need to respect the chair and shut your mouth!”
“Don’t worry about this, we’re going to handle this,” Clyburn responded. “I think Mr. Jordan knows me very well, and he knows full well that we’re going to handle this.”
Jordan thanked the South Carolina Democrat, and the hearing proceeded, with the Ohio Republican and Fauci sparring some more in subsequent rounds of questioning.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @DouglasPBraff.
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In a turn of events, the House of Representatives made history on Friday with a vote to expel Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), marking the first such expulsion in over two decades. A moment fraught with gravity unfolded as Speaker Mike Johnson wielded his gavel to formalize Santos’ removal, setting a precedent in congressional annals.
Santos, indicted on 23 counts related to wire fraud, identity theft, and other charges, has not faced conviction but stands accused of misusing campaign funds for opulent purchases. The bipartisan vote, tallying 311 to 114, signaled robust support for expulsion, with a marginally higher number of Republicans opting to retain Santos.
Questions loomed as Speaker Johnson left the chamber, his silence leaving the fate of the ongoing government spending battle uncertain. According to reports from Fox News, Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer emphasized the non-partisan nature of the decision, asserting that members concluded Santos had tarnished the House’s reputation and was unfit for representation.
Within the GOP, conflicting opinions emerged, with Rep. Darrell Issa arguing against expulsion, citing the presumption of innocence. The tight-lipped stance of the House Ethics Committee played a pivotal role in the deliberations.
Conversely, members of the New York Republican delegation, led by Rep. Marc Molinaro, asserted Santos’ commission of crimes, justifying expulsion based on a comprehensive investigation.
Santos himself predicted the outcome in an exclusive morning interview on “FOX & Friends.” This vote not only underlines the House’s rare use of expulsion powers but also sets a critical precedent in handling members facing severe legal challenges.
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