A back-and-forth between Dr. Anthony Fauci and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) over Covid-19 restrictions quickly devolved into chaos on the House floor Thursday, with Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) yelling at Jordan to “respect the chair” and to “shut” his “mouth.”
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Jordan, one of former President Donald Trump’s fiercest allies, grilled Fauci over Covid-19 restrictions during testimony in front of the House Coronavirus Crisis Subcommittee, angrily pressing the doctor on when Americans could expect to “get their freedoms back.”
Dr. Fauci responded that restrictions would ease when the infection rate—which is rising across the country—was “low enough,” before Jordan, interrupting the doctor, barked, “What is ‘low enough’? Give me a number!”
Jordan went on,“Fifteen days to slow the spread turned into one year of lost liberty,” referring to a campaign launched by Trump’s White House in March 2020 urging Americans to stay home for about two weeks to slow the spread of the virus.
Dr. Fauci, visibly annoyed, said the goal was to quickly vaccinate as many Americans as possible so the infection rate is no longer a “threat.”
“You know, you’re indicating liberty and freedom,” Fauci said, “but I look at it as a public health measure to keep people from dying and going to the hospital.”
Leaning in to the mic, Jordan snapped back, “You don’t think Americans’ liberties have been threatened in the last year, Dr. Fauci?”
“This will end—for sure—when we get the level of infection low,” Fauci responded, but it is now “at such a high level.”
After Jordan pressed Dr. Fauci again on what “number” would need to be reached before restrictions would ease further, other Democrats interjected, with Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the chair of the subcommittee, tartly replying that restrictions would ease “when 90% of the members of Congress get vaccinated.”
“You’re not a doctor, Mr. Clyburn,” Jordan yelled back before the conversation spiraled out of control and Waters instructed Jordan—whose time had expired—to “shut” his “mouth.”
“Right now, we’re at an unacceptably high level,” Dr. Fauci added, referring to the Covid-19 infection rate in the U.S. “What you’re going to see as more and more people get vaccinated . . . you’re going to see the level of infection come down and down, and gradually there will be more flexibility [to ease restrictions].”
While Fauci can recommend Covid-19 restrictions, it’s up to state governors—not the federal government— to set most guidelines. Nearly all states have eased Covid-19 restrictions in recent months as more and more Americans have gotten fully vaccinated, and about half of U.S. states no longer have statewide mask mandates.
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Republicans have escalated their attacks on Dr. Fauci in recent weeks. During a speech at a Republican National Committee event earlier this month, Trump said Fauci was “full of crap,” according to the Washington Post. “Dr. Fauci’s views on matters far outside his area of expertise on immunology are his opinions,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a tweet Wednesday, linking to a Fauci interview about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. “It’s his judgment, but it isn’t some established scientific fact.”