WASHINGTON — Rep. Jim Jordan exchanged tense words with infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci during a congressional hearing Thursday on the coronavirus pandemic. Rep. Maxine Waters ended the debate by telling Jordan to “shut your mouth.”
During a hearing held by the House Coronavirus Crisis Subcommittee, Jordan, R-Ohio, questioned Fauci on when the federal government can begin drawing back social-distancing and mask-wearing precautions.
“We had 15 days to slow the spread turn into a year of lost liberty. What metrics, what measures? What has to happen before Americans get more freedoms?” Jordan asked Fauci.
Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said his priority is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible so that COVID-19 is no longer a threat.
“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,” he said.
Jordan interrupted Fauci when the doctor was explaining quarantine measures would “end for sure” when the level of infection was low enough to prevent another surge of the virus, insisting Americans’ liberties had been assaultedr.
“Your right to go to church, your right to assemble, your right to petition your government, freedom of the press, freedom of speech (has) all been assaulted,” he said.
“I think you’re making this a personal thing, and it isn’t,” Fauci told Jordan.
“It’s not a personal thing,” Jordan said.
“No, you are. That is exactly what you’re doing,” Fauci said in an exasperated tone.
Jordan said he wanted a clear standard for when to lift COVID-19 restrictions because Fauci’s recommendations carry “a lot of weight.”
“We just had the chair of the Financial Services Committee say she loves you and you’re the greatest thing in the world,” he told Fauci.
Waters, a California Democrat and chair of the Financial Services Committee, told Fauci “I love you” after thanking the medical experts present at the hearing..
“As you know, my sister was one who was infected and died from COVID-19, and all that I had to depend on was Dr. Fauci,” Waters said. “I would like to tell Dr. Fauci that you literally saved millions of folks who would only listen to your advice based on what was happening with the Trump administration.”
Fauci said his recommendations were in line with guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.
“Right now, we have about 60,000 infections a day, which is a very large risk for resurge. “We’re not talking about liberties,” he said. “We’re talking about a pandemic that has killed 560,000 Americans. That’s what we’re talking about.”
The back and forth between Jordan and Fauci continued even after Committee Chairman Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., announced Jordan’s time had expired.
“You need to respect the chair and shut your mouth,” Waters told Jordan from across the room.
USA TODAY reached out to representatives for Jordan and Waters for comment.
Later in the hearing, Fauci accused Jordan of “ranting again” when the congressman resumed his line of questioning.
Fauci, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky and former head of the Food and Drug Administration Dr. David Kessler were among the witnesses who testified at the hearing. Biden named Kessler chief science officer of federal vaccine efforts in January, according to The New York Times.