Lawmakers ready to investigate Chinese spy balloon

Caroline Coudriet, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers returned to Washington this week eager to tackle outstanding questions about a Chinese spy balloon’s journey across the U.S. and what it means for the broader relationship between the U.S. and China.

Republicans, who have made competition with China a cornerstone of their agenda in the 118th Congress, say the balloon’s incursion illustrates the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party and the need for congressional action.

“It has a way of hammering home the threat, reminding people that this isn’t an over-there threat. It’s a right-here-at-home threat,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., a member of the House Armed Services Committee and chairman of the newly created select committee on China. “We had a massive spy balloon transiting lazily over the United States.”

Republicans are currently weighing whether to put forward a resolution condemning Chinese spying or, potentially, the Biden administration’s response to the situation. Although those details remain fluid, the appetite for some sort of legislative response is high.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., told reporters Tuesday that Republicans were “working on legislation right now” regarding the spy balloon, with four committees involved. But he also suggested details would need to wait until lawmakers had received classified briefings on the situation.

“We’re still gathering more facts; working through that process,” he said. “So we may have a piece of legislation but it’s not finalized.”


Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Monday evening that he was working to secure a classified briefing on the balloon for all members of the House. He also hinted support for a bipartisan resolution condemning China’s tactics that could earn Democratic votes.

“I think our greatest strength is when we speak with one voice to China,” he said. “I think what they did was an atrocity.”

However, GOP lawmakers have already vowed to probe the Biden administration’s decision-making as the situation unfolded. An F-22 Raptor based at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia shot down the balloon Saturday after it had traversed the U.S., but Republicans have questioned why it was not destroyed sooner.

Defense Department officials maintained they avoided shooting the balloon down over land to protect people and property on the ground while also taking steps to prevent it from gathering any valuable intelligence.


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