Republicans pounce on Biden over appearance of Chinese spy balloon

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Republican politicians sharply criticized President Biden shortly after an apparent Chinese spy balloon appeared in the sky above Montana.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., tweeted Thursday afternoon that Biden "should shoot down" the balloon, which she said would never have been allowed to enter U.S. airspace when former President Donald Trump was president.

"Biden should shoot down the Chinese spy balloon immediately. President Trump would never have tolerated this," Greene wrote in a tweet Thursday. "President Trump would never have tolerated many things happening to America."

President Biden speaks about the Friday January 2023 jobs report
President Biden speaks about the January jobs report on Friday. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

On Friday morning, China released a statement confirming ownership of the high-altitude balloon.

“The airship is from China,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes. Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course.

“The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure. The Chinese side will continue communicating with the US side and properly handle this unexpected situation caused by force majeure.”

The Pentagon said at a Friday briefing that the "surveillance balloon" had "violated U.S. airspace and international law," and, as of noon ET, was over "the center of the continental United States."

Citing the incident, the Biden administration postponed Secretary of State Antony Blinken's planned trip to China, which was to begin on Friday. That reaction, however, was not good enough for many Republicans.

"Maybe if the Biden Administration wasn't so worried about banning your gas stoves, they would have seen this Chinese spy balloon coming," Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, tweeted Friday.

Since the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, Jordan has become the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, whose GOP Twitter account also sought to pin the blame for the Chinese balloon on Biden.

"Joe Biden's headed home for vacation in Wilmington tonight while a CHINESE spy balloon flies over our country," the House Judiciary account said in a tweet.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the microphone with three American flags behind him.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in Jerusalem on Tuesday. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP via Getty Images)

During a Thursday briefing, Pentagon officials said they had decided it was potentially too dangerous to shoot down the balloon, which is believed to be the size of three school buses.

“We had been looking at whether there was an option yesterday over some sparsely populated areas in Montana. But we just couldn’t buy down the risk enough to feel comfortable recommending shooting it down yesterday," an official said.

In an interview with Fox News, House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., expressed fears that the balloon had the capability to do more than simply spy on Americans.

"My concern is that the federal government obviously doesn't know what's in that balloon. Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?" Comer speculated.

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who will deliver the Republican party's response to next week's State of the Union Address, accused Biden of being "silent" on the incident.

"China is a foreign adversary that presents serious challenges to America's values, security, and economy. President Biden cannot be silent on China's total disregard for U.S. sovereignty," she wrote on Twitter.

While Biden did call off Blinken's diplomatic mission to China and the Pentagon and State Department had directly addressed the balloon incident, some Republicans deemed that response insufficient.

"If u r puzzled by Biden admin passive reaction to Chinese spy balloon hovering over our military bases that makes 2 of us Glad Scty Blinken postponed his trip but r we really going 2 just let it sail all the way across U.S.??? Need strong response 2 this provocation," Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote on Twitter.

As of midday Friday, however, Biden had steered clear of the topic. Instead, he sought to focus the nation's attention on better-than-expected jobs numbers.

"This morning, we learned the economy created 517,000 jobs in January," the president said in a tweet posted Friday. "We also learned we did better last year than previously thought. Add that up, and we've created 12 million jobs since I took office. That's the two strongest years of job growth in history — by a long shot."

With less than two years until the 2024 presidential election, the political ramifications of virtually everything receive greater scrutiny. For those looking to replace Biden in the White House, the Chinese balloon story was a gift from above.

Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called on the U.S. to destroy it.

"Shoot down the balloon. Cancel Blinken's trip. Hold China accountable," Haley wrote in a tweet on Friday. "Biden is letting China walk all over us. It's time to make America strong again."

In a post on his social media network, Truth Social, Trump was more to the point.

"Shoot down the balloon!" he wrote.