House leaders briefed on Chinese spy balloon

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)
Greg Nash
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) gives remarks at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Monday, February 6, 2023 to discuss the debt ceiling and his upcoming negotiations with President Biden.

House leaders were briefed on the Chinese spy balloon on Wednesday morning, two sources familiar with the matter confirmed to The Hill.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner (R-Ohio) and ranking member Jim Himes (D-Conn.) — the House members who are part of the Gang of Eight — were present for the briefing, a third source confirmed to The Hill.

Asked for his reaction on what he heard in the briefing, McCarthy told reporters that it shows “why we started the Select Committee on China as well. I mean, they’re very aggressive of what they’re doing.” The House voted in a bipartisan fashion last month to create the panel, which will zero in on U.S. competition with China.

McCarthy also said the entire House will receive a “full classified briefing” on the matter.

“I think it’s very important to get all the information,” he added.

The briefing comes days after the U.S. shot down the balloon off the Carolina coast on Saturday, inflaming tensions between the U.S. and China.

McCarthy last week requested a briefing for top congressional leaders — known as the Gang of Eight — after reports surfaced that the suspected Chinese spy balloon had floated through the U.S. The balloon was ultimately shot down, and the U.S. military is now working to collect the debris.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have spoken out against China for floating the balloon over the U.S. Reps. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) — the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the House Foreign Affairs Committee — are drafting a resolution that would condemn Beijing.

McCaul told reporters on Wednesday that the resolution will be brought to the floor on Thursday.

Republicans, however, have also been critical of President Biden’s handling of the situation, knocking him for letting the balloon travel across continental U.S. before shooting it down. The president said he ordered the U.S. military to shoot down the balloon “as soon as possible,” and officials decided that “the best time to do that was when it got over water.”

Emily Brooks contributed.

Tags Beijing Biden China Chinese spy balloon Gang of Eight Gregory Meeks Hakeem Jeffries Hakeem Jeffries House Foreign Affairs Committee House Intelligence Committee House Select Committee on China Jim Himes Jim Himes Kevin McCarthy Kevin McCarthy Michael McCaul Michael Turner Michael Turner Mike Turner U.S. House Of Representatives United States

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