Michael Leavitt, who served as Health and Human Services secretary under President George W. Bush, on Tuesday recommended "serious" travel restrictions on anyone trying to enter the United States from a country experiencing an Ebola outbreak, until the situation in West Africa is under better control.
"I don't know that blanket travel bans have worked," he said on CSPAN Tuesday morning. "But I think having very serious travel restrictions, even to the point of saying if you come from an area where Ebola is prevalent, that we're going to restrict your travel, I think that's a reasonable approach."
"I'm for quite serious and very aggressive travel restrictions," he said.
A travel ban has been supported mostly by Republicans who say the government needs to protect U.S. citizens from an outbreak. But the idea has been opposed by the Obama administration and other Democrats as something that would make it harder for the U.S. to deliver aid to West Africa.
Obama's opposition has prompted some Republicans to consider legislation that would require the government to deny U.S. entry to anyone who might be carrying the Ebola virus from West Africa. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) said last week he would propose a bill to that effect once Congress returns in mid-November.
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told TheBlaze that while the Obama administration already has the legal authority to impose travel restrictions, it's possible the House may have to act. "The speaker has not ruled out bringing the House back to address the Ebola crisis if our oversight efforts demonstrate a need for legislation to help combat the spread of the disease," he said.
Leavitt also rejected criticism from Democrats that the absence of a U.S. Surgeon General matters at all as the U.S. fights Ebola.
"In reality, they do not play a great role in emergency management," he said. "They are the in third level at HHS. They report to the assistant secretary of health, and the assistant secretary of health reports, typically, to the secretary of health."
"A lot has been made about the Surgeon General and their absence," he added. "That's part of what happens on Capitol Hill, that kind of politics. But it has not been a significant problem in my judgement in combatting this situation."
Many Democrats have blamed Senate Republicans for blocking Obama's pick to be the next Surgeon General. But under current Senate rules imposed by Democrats, a simple majority is all that's needed to advance any Obama nomination for the post.
That means Democrats are free to confirm anyone they can agree on as the next Surgeon General.