GOP lawmakers criticize Biden’s response to China’s suspected surveillance balloon

Republican lawmakers on Sunday criticized the Biden administration for waiting too long to shoot down the Chinese balloon that flew across the U.S. for days on a suspected surveillance mission.

The giant white balloon was shot down by a military jet on Saturday afternoon after dominating headlines for the past four days and even joining the pop culture zeitgeist with a memorable appearance on “Saturday Night Live.”

The spotting of the balloon above the continental U.S., which was initially downplayed by Chinese authorities, led Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a high-profile diplomatic visit to China.

The already-fragile diplomatic relationship between the two powers was further damaged on Saturday, just before 3 p.m., after the downing of the balloon.

In a statement, China said it would “resolutely defend the legitimate rights and interests of the enterprise involved, and [it] retains the right to respond further.”

The saga of the unmanned aircraft was also a favorite talking point on Sunday morning shows — and Republicans were quick to voice opposition to President Joe Biden’s handling of the situation.

FILE - Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

“Clearly this was an attempt by China to gather information, to defeat our command and control of our sensitive missile defense and nuclear weapon sites,” Rep. Mike Turner, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“And that certainly is an urgency that this administration does not recognize,” the Ohio congressman added.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio criticized Biden for not addressing the nation sooner.

“Why didn’t the president go on television?” Rubio said. “He has the ability to convene the country in cameras and basically explain what we’re dealing with here and why he’s made the decisions he’s making and what they intend to do.”

The president reportedly wanted to issue the shootdown order on Wednesday, but he was advised by Pentagon officials to wait until the balloon was over the ocean.

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Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, was also a guest on ABC’s “This Week,” where he said China wanted to send a message to the world by flying a balloon they knew would be spotted.

“And that [message] is that the United States is a once-great superpower that’s hollowed out, it’s in decline,” he said.

Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, joined “Fox News Sunday” to discuss Biden’s handling of the balloon, which he called an “embarrassment.”

“What began as a spy balloon has become a trial balloon testing President Biden’s strength and resolve, and unfortunately the president failed that test. And that’s dangerous for the American people,” the Senate Intelligence Committee member said. “The president was paralyzed for an entire week by a balloon.”

House Republicans are reportedly discussing the passage of a resolution condemning the handling of the situation by the Biden administration, CNN reported Sunday afternoon, citing a source familiar with the talks.

The resolution could be put up for a vote as early as Tuesday when the president is set to deliver his 2023 State of the Union Address.

With News Wire Services

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