President Joe Biden tried to take a victory lap Saturday afternoon after the U.S. military shot down a Chinese spy balloon that Biden allowed to travel across the entire country before destroying.
Biden claimed in remarks to reporters that he “ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down on Wednesday as soon as possible,” but that the decision was made to not shoot it down over land because debris could cause damage when falling to the ground.
U.S. officials were reportedly “well aware” that the balloon had crossed into American airspace on January 28 and that it was over Idaho on Tuesday, but decided not to inform the public to not upend Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s diplomatic trip to China.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that the spy ballon was sent to the U.S. “in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), the Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee and a member of the Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that Biden should have taken out the balloon much sooner “over remote areas of Alaska or Montana.”
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Greene (R-NC) said that it was “indefensible that this threat was eliminated only after great public outcry and the damage to U.S. national security and American sovereignty was already done.”
“The fact remains that President Biden, when faced with the opportunity to protect the homeland from our adversaries, chose yet again to demonstrate weakness on the global stage,” Greene added. “From the Southern border to Afghanistan and, now, Chinese surveillance directly above our homes and sensitive military installations, this President shows he is not interested in protecting American interests.”
📢NEW: Chairman @RepMarkGreen comments on the Chinese spy balloon being removed from U.S. airspace ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/C1GjEiM35f
— House Homeland GOP (@HomelandGOP) February 4, 2023
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) said that Biden should have “taken care of this before it became a national security threat.”
“I hope we will be able to recover the wreckage to help determine what intelligence the CCP collected while its spy balloon was over our country for days,” McCaul said. “I will be demanding answers and will hold the admin accountable for this embarrassing display of weakness.”
Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-MO) said that while he was glad the U.S. military shot down the spy balloon, “the damage has already been done.”
“We need answers from the Biden Administration on why it took this long to bring the Chinese spy balloon down and we need [to] ensure that this never happens again,” Schmitt continued.
Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) slammed the entire episode as “a tremendous embarrassment for the United States of America.”
Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL) called the ordeal “an abysmal security failure by Biden.”
Some Democrats, including Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), were not happy about the incident, saying that “the Chinese government’s incursion into our airspace is unacceptable & we need to treat it as such.”
“There need to be consequences for the CCP beyond the postponement of @SecBlinken’s trip to Beijing,” she said. “All members of Congress need to be briefed on the situation this week and in the future as we learn more from studying the remains of the balloon’s payload. We also need to take steps now to demonstrate to the Chinese government the seriousness of their actions. Whether through new sanctions or tighter restrictions on U.S. exports to China, the message needs to be loud and clear.”
Other notable responses included:
Almost 48 hours after public discovery, the Chinese spying balloon has been shot down.
It makes you wonder, would Biden’s Department of Defense have shot it down if the American people hadn’t found out?
— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) February 4, 2023
The Chinese spy balloon was shot down today off the coast of S.Carolina, but it SHOULD have been removed as soon a it crossed into U.S. territory days ago.
This fiasco was as dangerous to our national security as it was unacceptable. The American people deserve answers. pic.twitter.com/TcfNEadw4d
— Rep. Mike Johnson (@RepMikeJohnson) February 4, 2023
Like everyone, I'm concerned about the Chinese surveillance balloon, but this is not a new thing.
The CCP has been SPYING on the U.S. for years. It's why I fought with @RepStefanik to pass the American Security Drones Act, which would ban any purchase of non-U.S. drones.
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) February 4, 2023
There needs to be a full, transparent accounting of what happened and why this spy balloon was allowed to violate U.S. territorial sovereignty for so long in the first place.
— Senator Deb Fischer (@SenatorFischer) February 4, 2023
I’m glad to hear the spy balloon was shot down, but it should have been shot down long ago. President Biden should explain himself immediately.
— Rep. Michelle Steel (@RepSteel) February 4, 2023
Now that this embarrassing episode is over, we need answers from the Biden Administration on the decision-making process. Communist China was allowed to violate American sovereignty unimpeded for days. We must be better prepared for future provocations and incursions by the CCP. https://t.co/ao8gy8LAp3
— Senator Thom Tillis (@SenThomTillis) February 4, 2023
Finally. However, this is something that should’ve occurred day ago **before** it entered U.S. airspace. https://t.co/iv6sZi207D
— Rep. Ken Buck (@RepKenBuck) February 4, 2023
This was a test by the CCP & Biden failed. The American people deserve answers.
— Ashley Hinson (@RepAshleyHinson) February 4, 2023
Allowing China to fly its spy balloon from coast to coast was a test. Biden failed. With Biden as President, our enemies no longer fear us. China must be held accountable.
— Congressman William Timmons (@RepTimmons) February 4, 2023
Biden is busy campaigning while a Chinese spy aircraft is floating freely over US soil. Including flights over sensitive national security assets like Fort Bragg.
— Richard Hudson Press (@RepRichHudson) February 4, 2023