Republican lawmakers have been largely united in their belief that President Joe Biden should have reacted to the presence of a Chinese spy balloon in U.S. airspace much sooner than he did.
One poll found that nearly three-fifths of Americans agree, sharing the sentiment that the administration’s delayed response makes the U.S. appear “weak.”
In addition to the situation’s impact on America’s international status, many GOP officials have also expressed serious concerns about the potential national security implications of the Chinese espionage mission.
While some Biden critics believe that allowing the balloon to travel across the continental United States might have provided China with sensitive military data, U.S. Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) offered a different theory.
“I think they were looking at our infrastructure specifically, or specifically, our infrastructure, when we’re delivering crude and petroleum products from Alaska to the lower 48s,” he said during a recent Fox Business Network interview.
Tonight, Joe Biden must explain why he allowed a Chinese spy balloon to survey the United States for 8 days before taking it down. The American people deserve answers and transparency. #SOTU pic.twitter.com/ULyrJhghBZ
— Markwayne Mullin (@SenMullin) February 7, 2023
Mullin went on to dismiss China’s assertion that the vessel merely veered off course in its coast-to-coast trip.
“If you look at the flight pattern, where it came from, where it crossed, [it] is very suspect to me why that was flying that pattern when they say it’s out of control,” he said. I don’t believe it was one bit. I think they were obviously wanting to see if they could disrupt the supply of petroleum products just in case we went into a conflict with them.”
Regardless of the motivation for this foreign mission, GOP legislators have spoken out against the White House’s permissive stance.
Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, asserted that the balloon “should have been shot down before it entered our skies,” lamenting that “the Biden administration waffled again” when faced with a security threat.
“They knowingly allowed a foreign military aircraft equipped with spyware to invade the U.S. sovereignty and navigate itself unimpeded across the country. putting the privacy of countless Americans at risk,” she said.
Meanwhile, Biden has declared that the balloon did not represent a “major breach” — but even some Democrats are skeptical.
As Sen. John Tester (D-MT) said: “I think there’s a lot of lines that need to be connected on the dots [such as] What did [the Chinese] get? And where did they get it? And what are we going to do when it happens again?”