Republican 5th District congressional candidate Mark Greenberg criticized first-term Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty on Tuesday for not urging the U.S. government to do more to protect the country from the Ebola virus.
Greenberg, a Litchfield real estate developer, wants President Barack Obama to issue a temporary travel ban from countries in West Africa where the disease has reached an epidemic level, and a temporary suspension of travel visas for people originating from those countries. He also criticized the government’s failure to screen for the disease at major U.S. airports.
Greenberg said that Esty’s “inaction on this priority issue proves she lacks the fortitude to handle the top concerns of her constituents.”
Both political parties are using Ebola as a campaign issue this fall. Republicans, including Greenberg, are criticizing the president for not enacting a travel ban, which the administration said would harm efforts to aid those countries. Democrats, in turn, have criticized Republicans for cutting funding that would have helped the U.S. better prepare for an outbreak.
Esty listed Ebola as a top foreign policy concern in a recent interview with the Republican-American of Waterbury, and said she supports President Obama’s decision to send military aide to the countries affected. In a recent constituent newsletter, she called for “robust funding for medical research conducted by the National Institute of Health” and said, “I also voted for a bill to provide funding to combat Ebola.”
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is also battling for a second term this fall, got out in front of the issue recently by declaring a “public health emergency” to ensure that the state could enforce quarantines should someone contract the disease in Connecticut.
One person has died from Ebola in the United States after traveling here from West Africa. A second person in the U.S., a health care worker who helped treat the victim at a Dallas hospital, has contracted the disease.
For Greenberg, the Ebola issue relates in general to what he views as Obama’s and congressional Democrats’ weakness on the issues of terrorism and immigration.
“The Obama administration tells us we are safe and they are ‘stopping this in its tracks.’ They have done little, though, to reassure the American people recently,” Greenberg said in his statement about Ebola Tuesday. “Protocols are being broken despite promises they ‘work,’ and groups like ISIS are being dismissed as [junior varsity].’ We need Congress to take the lead in demanding a stronger response from our government.”
At a debate last week in Danbury, Greenberg said that the country is failing to “secure our borders” and that puts us at risk from “disease” and “terrorists.” He said that before Congress does anything to address a “path to citizenship” for the estimated 11 undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., it must secure its borders.
In an Oct. 3 editorial board meeting with the New Haven Register, Esty touted her sponsorship of a comprehensive immigration reform bill and said that some of Republicans’ “secure the border” talk was misguided.
“The Tea Party wants to see a wall across the entire border, dogs, video cameras, tens of billions (of dollars spent), before anything happens,” she said. “I don’t think that’s the right balance. I don’t think that’s a sensible use of U.S. tax dollars. I don’t think it’s justified.”
Following the posting of this story, Esty’s campaign released a statement Tuesday morning:
“I am deeply concerned about the growing Ebola epidemic. That’s why last month, I voted to increase funding to accelerate U.S. Department of Human Health and Services research on Ebola vaccines and to increase funding for the Centers for Disease Control to respond to the epidemic,” Esty wrote. “I also support precautionary health screenings at airports of passengers who travelled to West Africa, but I do not support an outright travel ban. American citizens have a right to return home, and a travel ban would leave American health workers who are risking their lives to volunteer in the affected areas with no way to return home.”
Laura Maloney, Esty’s campaign manager, said “it’s absurd that Mark Greenberg is sending out press releases criticizing Elizabeth for her ‘inaction’ when she voted last month on a significant response to the crisis.”
Maloney said Greenberg “needs to stop relying on Republican talking points and do his homework. Tea Party Republicans — the same Tea Party that Mark Greenberg would vote in lockstep with — have consistently voted to irresponsibly slash research funding.”
She said “across-the-board cuts chill critical research and affect companies right here in the 5th District. For example, Protein Sciences in Meriden was developing a vaccine for Ebola, but had to put it on hold due to shortages in funding from the National Institutes of Health.”
Esty voted in favor of Public Law 113-164, which was passed by the House 319-108 and provided an additional $88 million to respond to the Ebola outbreak, including $30 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and $58 million for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority within the Dept. of Health and Human Services.