Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has announced that all US senators will receive a classified briefing on the fallout from a Chinese surveillance balloon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina this weekend.
The briefing is scheduled to take place on February 15 and will be presented by the Defense Department’s Office of Net Assessment, which is tasked with providing assessments of the military’s future. During his news conference, Schumer said senators would hear the latest information on the balloon incident and the United States’ foreign policy stance related to China. In addition to a senate-wide briefing, the gang of eight, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the house and senate, will also receive a classified briefing on Tuesday.
Majority Leader Schumer has defended the Biden administration’s handling of the balloon situation, arguing that they acted responsibly. He praised the administration for being “calm, calculating, effective” by shooting down the balloon over the Atlantic Ocean, where it posed a minimal risk to those on the ground. Schumer added that taking down the balloon above US territorial waters allowed officials to recover most of the debris, which could provide valuable insight into China’s capabilities.
Despite Schumer’s praise, House Republicans are in the early stages of creating a resolution that would criticize President Biden’s handling of the balloon situation. The anticipated resolution, which is nonbinding, is expected to hit the floor as early as this week. While most republicans are expected to support the resolution, two moderate Republicans have said they would not support the resolution if it comes up for a vote.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Marco Rubio have criticized the Biden administration for not disclosing the balloon’s existence as soon as it entered US airspace last week. In remarks, Senator Rubio said, “Presidents have the abilities to go before a camera, go before the nation and basically explain these things early on. And his failure to do so — I don’t understand that. I don’t understand why he wouldn’t do that. And that is the beginning of dereliction of duty and the second is you have to act swiftly on these things.”