Washington reacted to the President Biden’s handling of the Chinese spy balloon with mixed reviews, with praise and criticism falling mainly along party lines.
“Joe Biden was tested on the world stage and abysmally failed,” New York’s Elise Stefanik, the No. 3 House Republican tweeted hours after the balloon was shot down.
“The Chinese spy balloon should never have been allowed to cross into our sovereign nation gathering intelligence.”
Two US Air Force fighter jets took out the balloon over a week after it first breached the US border.
By the time it was shot down off the coast of North Carolina Saturday, the spy device had covered more than 4,000 miles of American territory.
Biden admitted that the Pentagon had known about the huge white orb — the size of three school buses — since it entered US air space, but decided to keep their knowledge of the balloon a secret.
The administration also decided to allow the balloon to travel the length of the country because shooting it down over water would be safer than over land, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said.
“If it was worth shooting down, why was it permitted to drift across the continental US first? And can its mechanisms be recovered and examined?” Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) questioned.
Democrats were mostly quiet about Biden’s decision to shoot down the balloon, but those who spoke up took the opportunity to criticize China.
“I strongly condemn President Xi’s brazen incursion into American airspace, and I commend President Biden’s leadership in taking down the Chinese balloon over water to ensure safety for all Americans. Now we can collect the equipment and analyze the technology used by the CCP,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said.
“It’s down folks!” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) tweeted.
China claims that the balloon was a “civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes” that had unintentionally crossed into American airspace.
Louisiana’s Republican Rep. Mike Johnson said the balloon “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.”
“First Biden refused to defend our borders. Now he won’t defend our skies,” Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said.
“Joe Biden knew the Chinese spy balloon was coming,” the House Republican Committee on the Judiciary tweeted amid a long stream of condemning posts.
“Tried to hide it from the American people. Let it fly across the ENTIRE COUNTRY. And only after the entire country begged him to act, our great military shot it down. Embarrassing. Scary. Sad.”
Congressman Matt Rosendale, who represents the Montana city of Billings where footage of the balloon first alerted the public to its existence, had complained about the government’s lack of transparency concerning the spy device before it was shot down.
“Now that China has gathered information about our infrastructure and military for over a week, we finally bring down the balloon!” he tweeted after it was eliminated.
Rep. Ryan Zilke, who also represents Montana, suggested that the Biden administration should have taken the opportunity to shoot the balloon when it was seen hovering over his state, claiming that his constituents “do not bow. We shoot it down.”
Sen. Sussan Collins (R-ME) reiterated Zilke’s statement, offering that there was ample opportunity to take out the balloon over remote areas in Montana or Alaska.