House votes to condemn China's spy balloon

 February 10, 2023

The House of Representatives voted unanimously Thursday to condemn China's spy balloon, a rare display of unity.

The resolution condemning China for a "a brazen violation of United States sovereignty" passed in a 419-0 vote.

House condemns spy balloon

The balloon entered American airspace in late January but was not widely publicized until last week, when it was found hovering near U.S. missile sites in Montana. The balloon was allowed to travel all the way to South Carolina before it was shot down Saturday over the ocean.

While Republicans have criticized Biden's delayed response as weak, the resolution brought by Foreign Affairs chairman Michael McCaul (Tx.) focuses on rebuking China's aggression. McCaul said the resolution sends a message that violations of America's sovereignty will be met with "force."

“An event like this, Mr. Speaker, must not happen again. And it cannot go unanswered,” McCaul said.

"Our adversaries must believe that any future incursion into American airspace by a spy balloon or any other vehicle will be met with decisive force. And that is why the House should pass this resolution," he said.

Nothing major?

The resolution also directs the Biden administration to continue briefing Congress on the spying incident and past incursions like it.

The unanimity of the vote comes as a bit of a surprise after Democrats downplayed the balloon incident and even mocked those concerned by it.

Senator Chris Murphy (Ct.), derided the "bed wetters" who were alarmed by Biden's inaction, and Biden himself said the incursion was nothing "major." His rationale? Countries spy on each other all of the time.

"It’s not a major breach. Look, the total amount of intelligence gathering that’s going on by every country around the world is overwhelming,” Biden said Thursday.

Damage control

Yet, a poll from Trafalgar Group found that 63 percent of Americans think Biden mishandled the situation, and nearly 60 percent said Biden made America look weak.

Biden and his Democratic allies have claimed the delay was necessary to prevent injury to people on the ground -- and, however implausibly, they have spun Biden's response as expeditious and strong.

"I think downing the craft sends a powerful message to China that we won't tolerate invasions of our airspace," Democrat Adam Schiff (Ca.) said following a House briefing.

The State Department confirmed Thursday that the downed aircraft was equipped with antennas that were "clearly for intelligence surveillance" and "likely capable of collecting and geo-locating communications."

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