Live updates: Suspected Chinese spy balloon latest

Sen. Steve Daines. (Pool)

Senate Republicans and Democrats are divided over the Biden administration’s handling of the suspected Chinese spy balloon after a classified briefing by key officials on Thursday.

Many Senate Democrats were content with the explanation and strongly defended the administration’s actions, while most Republicans voiced frustrations with the answers provided and think the balloon should have been shot down before it entered the continental United States.

Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, said he was “not satisfied” with the briefing and explanation from the administration, saying, “The fact that the president allowed this balloon to transit the United States, including some of our most sensitive national security infrastructure before he took measures to have it shot down.”

Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana who is in GOP leadership, echoed Cornyn’s frustration saying he still has “a lot of unanswered questions.”  

“On behalf of the people of Montana whose airspace was violated by this Chinese spy balloon I have a lot of unanswered questions,” Daines said, reiterating that the administration is still working on gaining further intelligence from the balloon. 

“There was nothing in there that I learned that would’ve said that we shouldn’t have shot it down when it was over Alaska,” added GOP Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas, exiting the briefing.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he also believes the administration had opportunities and the “ability to bring it down”. 

Meanwhile, several Senate Democrats strongly defended the administration’s response.

“Everything I learned today confirms that the administration made the right decision,” said Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy.

Asked about the GOP response out of the briefing differing from Democrats, with many saying the balloon could have been shot down sooner, Murphy chalked it up to a difference of opinion on collecting intelligence. 

“Maybe some people don’t think it’s valuable to collect the intelligence, I do,” Murphy said. “I think it made sense for us to learn something about this balloon given that it really posed no threat to the United States so maybe there’s just a difference of opinion there.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, echoed Murphy and Durbin saying she was “satisfied” with the administration’s handling of the balloon incident, but would not elaborate saying it was a classified briefing.  

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