Lawmakers are reacting to the revelation that a Chinese spy balloon is currently flying above the U.S. after the government opted not to shoot it down over Montana.
The Pentagon announced on Thursday evening that for days it has been tracking a Chinese surveillance balloon flying over the U.S. On Friday, the Pentagon announced the balloon was heading east somewhere over the central part of the country.
In a joint statement, the top two lawmakers on the newly-formed House committee on China said the balloon “demonstrates that the [Chinese Communist Party] threat is not confined to distant shores—it is here at home and we must act to counter this threat.”
“If you had any doubts of the length the CCP will go to spy on you, you have proof in the sky over Montana,” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).
A senior defense official said Thursday that the balloon had at one point been spotted over a sparsely populated area of Montana, but the government still stopped short of shooting it down, fearing injuries and damage from its debris field.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a highly-placed member of Senate committees on intelligence and foreign relations, said it was a “mistake to not shoot down that Chinese spy balloon when it was over a sparsely populated area.”
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) accused President Joe Biden of “letting China off the hook” and wondered whether several former presidents would have let the balloon keep flying.
Montana’s own two House representatives, both Republicans, diverged on how to approach the balloon floating over their state. Rep. Matt Rosendale, who represents most of the state, called for a “safe way” to bring the balloon down and analyze any information China collected.
A more aggressive stance was taken by the other representative, Rep. Ryan Zinke. On Thursday night, he tweeted: “Shoot. It. Down. The Chinese spy balloon is clear provocation. In Montana we do not bow.”
On Friday, he added, “I’d pull the trigger if they let me.”
Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) criticized lawmakers for wanting to “blow the Chinese balloon to a million bazillion smithereens in a Hollywood-like boom.”
“I for one would much rather own it intact than be picking its charred remains off a 100 square mile debris field,” he said on Twitter.