House lawmakers are prepping a bipartisan resolution to condemn China after the U.S. shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon over the weekend, which ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Beijing.
Though Republicans have sharply criticized the Biden administration for waiting for days as the balloon traveled across the continental U.S. to South Carolina before shooting it down, the resolution is not expected to focus blame on President Biden.
“We want it to be a bipartisan resolution about China, not about us fighting each other,” Rep. Mike McCaul, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told reporters Monday night. “Because it’s too important of an issue, you know. We want to stand strong together against China instead of having our internal fights.”
McCaul said he sent a draft resolution to Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the panel, who has “made his comments.” The two were set to meet Monday evening to “hash it out,” according to McCaul.
He said the resolution could be released as soon as this week.
“Clearly, we’re focused on condemning China for sending a spy balloon into United States territory. Obviously, we have a lot more questions about what happened, and when the administration knew it,” House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) said Monday.
“Those are separate questions going on, and we need to have a briefing on it. But in the meantime, we’re trying to get an agreement with” the committees working on the proposal, he added.
Talk of a resolution comes the same week Biden is set to deliver the State of the Union address. McCaul said that event factored into his thinking about whether to write the resolution with a partisan edge.
“My strong recommendation was to make it bipartisan because with the State of the Union, I just think it’s important that we focus on our adversary China, rather than our internal politics or divisions,” he said.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said he will get a “gang of eight” intelligence briefing — alongside bipartisan congressional leaders as well as the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Intelligence committees — on the Chinese balloon sometime this week. He is pushing for a briefing open to all House members.
McCarthy said his questions will include why the U.S. did not shoot down the balloon earlier, when it was detected, and inquiries about other balloons detected in the past that were only assessed to be balloons later.
Gen. Glen VanHerck, the head of U.S. Northern Command, said Monday that the Defense Department assessed the presence of previous balloons in or near U.S. airspace during the Trump administration after the fact through other means of information collection.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that Biden had authorized the military to take down the balloon last Wednesday, and officials waited to shoot it down over water so the debris would not harm any Americans.
McCarthy was not convinced that there was not a safe way to take down the balloon earlier.
“If you allow them to enter a sovereign nation of America in the airspace, what does that say? I would send a very clear message that you’re never going to enter,” McCarthy said.
“You could do it over Alaska without any problem. You could have done it over northern Idaho. You could have done it in Montana. These are not high populated areas that gave you a lot of opportunity.”
China last week denied that the balloon was spying on the U.S., claiming it was a weather balloon that went off course.