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GOP lawmaker looks to force Obama's hand with Ebola travel ban legislation

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 1: From left, Reps. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, Tom Marino, R-Pa., and Ted Poe, R-Texas, attend a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere hearing in Rayburn Building, October 1, 2014, on Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi who is imprisoned in Mexico. Tahmooressi, who suffers from PTSD, has been held in Mexico since being arrested in March for carrying guns across the border. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) said Friday he would introduce legislation to ban all travel between Ebola-ravaged countries in West Africa and the United States, and prevent the issuance of any new travel visas to people in those countries.

Poe's bill is the latest sign of pressure from members of Congress who have pushed for some kind of travel restriction, only to see the Obama administration continually reject that idea.

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), right, will soon propose legislation forcing a ban on travel from West African countries to the United States. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

Democrats have defended the Obama administration's argument that banning travel would make it harder for the U.S. to bring medical aid to West Africa. But many Republicans have said the U.S. can put travel restrictions in place and still bring aid to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Poe said his legislation would force the administration's hand to ensure the government puts the safety of Americans first.

"The protection of its citizens is the first and foremost responsibility of our government," he said in a letter to House members seeking support for his bill.

"The administration already has the authority to prevent potentially infected persons or property from entering the United States, but has not yet done so," Poe said. "We cannot afford to wait any longer. Congress must act."

Poe said that once Congress returns after the mid-term election, he would propose a ban on travel between the U.S. and the three countries. He said it would exempt diplomatic, military and medical personnel.

"Please join me in this effort to protect our citizens from the largest Ebola epidemic in history," Poe wrote.

In Thursday hearing on Ebola, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) suggested that the House should hold a vote in order to get the administration to listen to the demands of the American people.

"I think perhaps this committee should consider forwarding to the full House a request that we have a vote on travel restriction, because people are asking us to do that, and I think they are exactly correct to make that request,” Burgess said.

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