In the hours that followed U.S. military officials shooting down a balloon the Pentagon said was used by China for spying, lawmakers started pointing fingers at each other.
The balloon drifted over U.S. airspace last week. It was first reported over Montana on Thursday, then later seen over the Kansas City area by Friday. It was shot down near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on Saturday.
Several airports in the region had ground stops as debris fell from the sky.
Senators were set to receive a classified briefing on the situation on Thursday.
NEW: All-Senators will now be receiving a classified briefing on the Chinese surveillance balloon with Biden Admin officials THIS Thursday, a Schumer spokesman confirms.— Nathaniel Reed (@ReedReports) February 7, 2023
On Sunday morning talk shows, the Biden administration took the blame from Republican lawmakers.
“He allowed a full week for the Chinese to conduct spying operations over the United States, over sensitive military installations, exposing not just photographs but the potential of intercepted communications. And more broadly, I think this entire episode telegraphed weakness to Xi and the Chinese government,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
President Joe Biden said he wanted to shoot it down on Wednesday but was told it was too risky.
“On Wednesday, when I was briefed on the balloon, I ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down, on Wednesday, as soon as possible,” he said. They decided that the best time to do that was as it got over water, outside -- within our -- within the 12-mile limit.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin echoed Biden’s sentiments.
“After careful analysis, U.S. military commanders had determined downing the balloon while over land posed an undue risk to people across a wide area due to the size and altitude of the balloon and its surveillance payload,” Austin said in a statement. “In accordance with the President's direction, the Department of Defense developed options to take down the balloon safely over our territorial waters, while closely monitoring its path and intelligence collection activities.”