Rep. Kelly & Sen. Rubio Introduce the Keeping American Safe from Ebola Act


Legislation crafted after conversation with Dr. Peter Piot,
disease expert & discoverer of Ebola virus

WASHINGTON — U.S. Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA) – a member of the House Ways and Means Committee – delivered remarks on the floor of the House of Representatives today after introducing H.R. 5746, the Keeping America Safe from Ebola Act. The bill would prohibit an alien who is a national of a country with a widespread Ebola virus outbreak from obtaining a visa to enter the United States. The Senate companion of this legislation was also introduced today by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Highlights of floor speech by Rep. Kelly:

“Dr. [Peter] Piot said to me, ‘You know what, Mr. Kelly? I’m glad you called me, because let me tell you a little bit more about Ebola, and let me tell you right now what the world is looking at: Not just your country, but the world, is looking at a dress rehearsal for the next great virus.’”

“Because of who we are today and the technology that we have today, we can be sitting in this wonderful House this afternoon and we can be in Rome tonight. We can be halfway around the world in a very short period of time. It’s not like the old days when these diseases, these viruses, were carried and it took months for them to get from shore to shore, from country to country. It now can travel very quickly. And it mutates very quickly.”

“What else should we do? Number 1: Isolate. Number 2: Quarantine. …You must isolate, you must quarantine. Why? You don’t infect the general population. It is so basic, and yet we’re trying to struggle today to find out how we contain this disease, this lethal disease. What can we possibly do? The answers, my friend, are so obvious.”

“My friends, there is truly no time to lose. The vaccine, I’m told, is…available to us. But it’s not just Ebola I’m worried about, and it’s not just this country I’m worried about, and it’s not just Ebola that the world should worry about. It is what is coming. Believe me—we have not seen the end of infectious disease. We have not seen the end of lethal viruses that will cripple us as a nation and could become the weapon for bioterrorists that would use it at any cost, without any regard to human life.”

“We have the ability, right now, within our hands, within our grasp, to develop a vaccine in order to defeat this horrible virus. All that I would ask is that we come together in this House, the American people’s House – not a Republican House, not a Democrat House, but the American people’s House – to once again conquer a disease that could infect not only our own American citizens but citizens of the world.”

Statement by Sen. Rubio:

“Imposing travel restrictions is a common sense approach to protecting Americans from Ebola. Over the past few months, we’ve seen Ebola’s deadly reach, and air travel has proven to be its gateway to the United States. A temporary visa ban aims to limit the spread of Ebola by placing strict limitations on travel to the U.S. from Ebola-affected countries and protect Americans from any potential threats of an outbreak, but it does not mean that our efforts to combat the virus will stop there. America must remain committed to this international challenge by addressing it at its source and increasing our assistance to countries that continue struggling to contain this deadly outbreak. America will not be completely safe from Ebola until the virus is contained at its source.”

NOTE: The Keeping America Safe from Ebola Act of 2014 accomplishes the following:

  • Suspends new visas and revokes current visas of an individual who is:
    • A permanent resident or national of a country that the CDC has certified is a country for “widespread transmission of Ebola”, and
    • Whose last habitual residence was a country that the CDC has certified is a country for “widespread transmission of Ebola”
  • Exceptions include:
    • Aid workers who need to travel the U.S. and are approved by USAID
    • Foreign military who need to travel to the U.S. and are approved by Department of Defense
  • Requires the President to report to Congress every 30 days on the Ebola outbreak:
    • Status of Ebola outbreak in each designated country and the progress made since last reporting period
    • A description of the U.S. assistance to each designated country
    • Reasons that a complete travel ban is not in the interest of U.S. national security
  • Termination of Act: 60 days after the date the Director of the CDC certified that there is no longer an Ebola outbreak

BACKGROUND: On October 7, 2014, Rep. Kelly sent a letter to President Obama urgently requesting information regarding the administration’s handling of the Ebola virus outbreak and details of a comprehensive strategy to stop the virus from affecting Americans. A copy of the letter can be viewed here.

On October 8, 2014, Rep. Kelly co-signed a bipartisan letter to President Obama urging him to take immediate action to prevent an outbreak of the Ebola virus in America by instituting travel restrictions, enhancing airport screenings, and possibly quarantining individuals who have traveled to or from the affected West African countries. The letter can be viewed here.

On October 9, 2014, Rep. Kelly sent a letter to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Sylvia Burwell, and the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Tom Frieden, expressing his deep concern about the possibility of the Ebola virus spreading to Pennsylvania. The letter was copied to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, and can be read here.

On October 20, 2014, Rep. Kelly called on President Obama to finalize a rule proposed under the Bush administration in 2005 to update and revise regulations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to “prevent the introduction, transmission or spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the United States from one State or possession into another.” According to the federal register, the code of federal regulations that deals with foreign arrivals has not been updated since 1985. According to USA Today, the Obama administration scrapped the proposal in 2010 after objections by the American Civil Liberties Union over “potential passenger privacy rights violations and the proposal's ‘provisional quarantine’ rule.”

On October 21, 2014, Rep. Kelly held a phone conversation with Dr. Peter Piot, who first discovered the Ebola virus in 1976 in the Republic of Congo, about necessary action to stop the virus and protect American citizens. The Keeping America Safe from Ebola Act was crafted as a result of their discussion.