A tense back-and-forth Thursday between Republican Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio) and chief medical adviser to the president, Dr. Anthony Fauci, ended with Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.) jumping in and telling Jordan to "shut your mouth."
Jordan, a conservative firebrand, grilled Fauci for several minutes during Thursday's House Coronavirus Crisis Subcommittee hearing, titled "Reaching the Light at the End of the Tunnel: Ending COVID-19," asking him when Americans can expect to "get their freedoms back."
During his time for questioning, Jordan repeatedly pressed the public health expert to give a concrete answer on when the Biden administration will recommend lifting coronavirus restrictions such as social distancing, mask-wearing, and avoiding crowds.
"When is the time?" the congressman asked. "When do Americans get their freedom back?"
In response, Fauci offered only a vague answer, saying, "When we get the level of infection in this country low enough that it is not a really high threat."
"What is low enough? Give me a number," Jordan shot back. "What metrics, what measures, what has to happen before Americans get their freedoms?"
"When do Americans get their freedom back?" Jim Jordan and Fauci CLASH during hearing on COVID-19 www.youtube.com
"15 days to slow the spread turned into 1 year of lost liberty," Jordan continued.
Fauci, visibly annoyed with the line of questioning, responded, "You know, you're indicating liberty and freedom ... but I look at it as a public health measure to keep people from dying and going to the hospital."
"You don't think Americans' liberties have been threatened in the last year, Dr. Fauci?" Jordan snapped back. "They've been assaulted!"
"I don't look at this as a liberty thing, Congressman Jordan, I look at this as a public health thing," Fauci reiterated. "I disagree with you on that completely."
Similarly tense banter continued for several minutes as Jordan time and again asked simply for a "number" or some criteria with which the administration would judge the pandemic recovery. But Fauci refused to answer with any sort of specificity.
As Jordan's time of questioning drew to a close, Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn (S.C.), chair of the subcommittee, interjected with an answer, saying sarcastically that the restrictions will be lifted "when 90% of the members of Congress get vaccinated."
"You're not a doctor, Mr. Clyburn," Jordan shouted back, noting that the American people wanted to hear from Fauci on the issue, not the South Carolina congressman.
Jordan's persistence evidently set Waters off, as she jumped in to scold her Republican colleague, saying, "You need to respect the chair and shut your mouth."