Senate Republicans demand more information on Chinese balloon from Biden administration

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
Greg Nash
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) arrives to the Senate Chamber for a vote regarding a nomination on Thursday, December 15, 2022.

Republican senators are demanding answers from the Biden administration on its handling of the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that was shot down last weekend ahead of a scheduled private briefing on the matter.

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines on Wednesday raising questions about the administration’s response to the balloon, including about what officials knew and when and their decisionmaking after it was detected.

Rubio and Wicker are among a chorus of GOP voices who have been critical of President Biden for his handling of the balloon incident, with many Republicans arguing he did not act quickly enough and that the White House has not been sufficiently transparent.

Rubio and Wicker said there were a number of questions that the White House has yet to clarify, asking why the administration allowed the balloon to travel across the U.S. “uninterrupted.”

“We also lack a clear understanding of our senior national security leaders’ response to the Chinese surveillance balloon’s trajectory from first detection to January 28, when the Commander of U.S. Northern Command and NORAD Gen. Glen VanHerck notified his chain of command of the balloon, and until February 1, when President Biden finally ordered the Department to shoot down the balloon over water,” the lawmakers said.

Defense officials said that there were at least three times during former President Trump’s administration that similar balloons flew over the U.S., and the senators additionally asked the Biden administration whether it had developed any measures to counter such action prior to detecting the most recent balloon.

Senators are set to get a classified briefing on the balloon incident on Wednesday, according to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). While Republicans have hammered Biden, Schumer has defended the administration’s handling of the saga.

“Republican critics were breathless, political and premature,” Schumer said at a press conference in New York over the weekend. “President Biden and his team were calm, calculating and effective.”

Tags Chinese balloon Joe Biden Lloyd Austin Marco Rubio Marco Rubio republicans Roger Wicker Roger Wicker Senate

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