The House of Representatives on Thursday unanimously voted to condemn China’s incursion into American airspace after Republicans scrapped language criticizing the Biden administration’s response.
All 215 voting Republicans and all 204 voting Democrats voted to condemn China’s flight of a balloon across the continental U.S. A military jet shot the balloon down into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday, Feb. 4. It was first spotted flying over Montana on Thursday, Feb. 2. (RELATED: Past Chinese Spy Balloons Were Classified As UFOs, Officials Say)
The House adopted H. Res. 104 – Condemning the Chinese Communist Party’s use of a high-altitude surveillance balloon over United States territory as a brazen violation of United States sovereignty (@HouseForeignGOP) by a vote of 419-0.
— House Press Gallery (@HouseDailyPress) February 9, 2023
“It is in the U.S.’s national security interest to deter foreign adversaries from engaging in intelligence collection and other malign activities within U.S. territory and airspace,” the resolution, authored by House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Michael McCaul of Texas, states. “It should be the policy of the U.S. to promptly and decisively act to prevent foreign aerial surveillance platforms, including those directed by or connected to the [Chinese Communist Party] from violating U.S. sovereignty.”
Intelligence agencies believe that the balloon was collecting military intelligence, since it flew near military and nuclear sites in Montana, although the Chinese government claims that the vessel was monitoring the weather and blew off course. Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a planned trip to China in protest of the incursion.
Although President Joe Biden was briefed on the balloon on Tuesday, Jan. 31, federal officials did not notify the public about the balloon until Americans spotted it flying overhead. The Defense Department argued that allowing the balloon to continue on its trajectory would better allow U.S. intelligence officials to gather information about its capabilities.
GOP members reportedly intended to pass a resolution critical of the Biden administration’s handling on Tuesday, ahead of Biden’s State of the Union address. However, McCaul and Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Gregory Meeks of New York worked out a bipartisan resolution that did not mention the Biden administration.
“My strong recommendation was … This is one of the things you want as a country to appear to be coming together. You don’t want a partisan resolution,” McCaul told Politico. “I think that’s more important than our petty partisan politics.”
Senior members of Congress from both parties have argued that the Biden administration has not been forthcoming about what it knows about the balloon. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Turner of Ohio, and Intelligence Committee ranking member Jim Himes of Connecticut were briefed on Wednesday night.