Rubio questions US military decision to not shoot down suspected spy balloon sooner

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
Greg Nash
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) leaves the Old Senate Chamber following the Senate Republican leadership elections on Wednesday, November 16, 2022.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) questioned the military decision to not shoot down the suspected Chinese spy balloon that crossed the U.S. last week sooner, pushing officials to give more clarity in a private briefing.

Rubio, who receives highly sensitive information briefings from the executive branch, said he was curious why the Biden administration and military leaders did not shoot down the balloon when it was first noticed.

“I’d love to hear from military officials about why wasn’t it addressed earlier? What were the options at that point?” Rubio asked on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “Maybe in a closed session, or maybe with the benefit of hindsight they’ll have some real good arguments about why it couldn’t be done.”

Rubio and other Republicans have been critical of the Biden administration for what they saw as an unwillingness to deal with the balloon strongly enough. The U.S. military shot down the balloon on Saturday after it reached the waters off the coast of South Carolina.

Rubio on Sunday also questioned why Biden and the rest of the government was not more transparent with the public about their plans to deal with the balloon. 

“It really would have been helpful for the president of the United States to get on national television and explain to the American people: this is what we’re dealing with, this is what I’m gonna do about it and this is why I haven’t done it yet,” Rubio said. “None of that happened and I don’t know why.” 

As defense officials have argued that the balloon was used for espionage, Rubio said China was trying to send a message about American weakness to the world with the balloon. 

“This is what they wanted the world to see. That they could send a balloon at 60,000 feet over U.S. airspace, over military facilities, and that we would be unable to stop it,” Rubio said. “And then ultimately, when we shoot it down, if we did, they would argue: ‘Look how they react to a weather balloon.’ Which is obviously not what it is.”

–Updated at 10:05 a.m.

Tags Biden China Chinese balloon Marco Rubio military Rubio

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