Rep. Jim Jordan waylayed Dr. Anthony Fauci during a fiery exchange Thursday during a hearing to discuss the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with the Ohio Republican demanding to know when Americans could expect to return to living normally, without masks and social distancing.
To open the exchange, Jordan immediately seized upon comments Fauci, the Biden administration’s chief medical adviser and the country’s leading immunologist, made during his opening statement in which he said that masks, distancing, and limitations to gatherings will have to continue for the time being.
“When is the time? When is the time?” Jordan pressed. “When do Americans get their freedom back?”
“When we get the level of infection in this country low enough …”
“What is low enough?” Jordan interjected. “Give me a number. We had ’15 days to slow the spread’ — turned into one year of lost liberty. What metrics, what measures, what has to happen?”
“My message…is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can to get the level of infection in this country low so that is no longer a threat,” Fauci said. “That is when, and I believe when that happens, you’ll see…”
“What determines when?” Jordan interrupted again. “What? What measure? I mean, are we just going to continue this forever? When do we get to the point — what measure, what standard, what objective outcome do we have to reach before Americans get their liberty and freedoms back?”
Again, Fauci avoided providing any specifics but took umbrage with Jordan’s focus on individual liberties.
“You know, you’re indicating ‘liberty and freedom,’ I look at it as a public health measure to prevent people from dying and going to the hospital,” said Fauci.
“You don’t think Americans’ liberties have been threatened the last year, Dr. Fauci? They’ve been assaulted, their liberties have,” Jordan fired back.
“I don’t look at this as a liberty thing, Congressman Jordan, I look at this as a public health thing,” Fauci said. “I disagree with you on that completely.”
Jordan then pointed out that constitutional rights are not supposed to disappear during pandemics, prompting Fauci to respond, in a raised voice, that “this will end, for sure, when we get the level of infection very low.”
At that, Jordan listed several restrictions Americans have endured including being forbidden from attending church services or being limited in gatherings, a curfew last fall in Ohio, and being told to restrict the number of guests they have in their own homes. He went on to note the censoring of a video in which doctors disagreed with Fauci’s recommendations, leading the immunologist to claim that Jordan was trying to make things personal.
“It’s not a personal thing,” Jordan responded, which led Fauci to yell in response, “You are! That is exactly what you’re doing.”
The exchange, which lasted five minutes, led both men to exasperation.
“We’re not talking about liberties, we’re talking about a pandemic that has killed 560,000 Americans,” Fauci said at one point.
“And I don’t disagree with that,” Jordan replied. “But I also understand it’s pretty serious when businesses have been shut down, people can’t go to church, people can’t assemble in their own homes … people can’t go to a loved one’s funeral, people can’t get to their government to petition their representative to redress their grievances,” the fired-up Ohio Republican states.
“I also understand the First Amendment’s pretty darn important. It’s been a year, and I want to know when Americans will get those First Amendment liberties back,” he added.
As Jordan’s time ran out, House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Chairman Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said he will be satisfied when 90 percent of Congress gets vaccinated.
“When? What are the numbers?” Jordan continued to demand.
“Right now we’re at an unacceptably high level,” Fauci responded. “What you’re going to see as more and more people get vaccinated and we get over three million people a day, you’re going to see the level of infection come down and down, and gradually there will be more flexibility for doing the things that you’re talking about.”
Again, Jordan asked for specifics, but another member began to speak.
“I’d like my question answered!” the Ohioan demanded, prompting a response from fellow subcommittee member Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).
“You need to respect the chair and shut your mouth!” she yelled.
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