The New York Times: Senate Unanimously Condemns China for Spy Balloon, Joining the House

by Karoun Demirjian

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed a pair of resolutions condemning China for sending a surveillance balloon over the United States, joining the House in formally decrying an incident that has prompted a bipartisan chorus of demands for accountability on Capitol Hill.

The first of the two measures, written by Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, condemns the Chinese Communist Party for an “invasion” of U.S. airspace, while calling on the president to be “transparent with the American people and Congress” about the spy balloon incident and other attempts at espionage from China.

The second, a bipartisan resolution from Senators Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana, and Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, rebukes China for a “brazen violation” of U.S. sovereignty with the spy balloon. The balloon alarmed Montanans who spotted it in their skies Feb. 1, and it spent some time hovering near sensitive military sites in the state.

Together, the measures bring the Senate into line with a gesture the House first made last week, when that chamber unanimously passed a resolution condemning the Chinese Communist Party for sending the balloon over U.S. airspace. That resolution was crafted to focus acutely on China over the suggestion of some House Republican leaders, who initially floated the idea of condemning President Biden personally over the incident, as many Republican members were already doing publicly.

Though Mr. Hawley was among those who criticized Mr. Biden for his handling of the spy balloon incident and its aftermath, the text of his resolution was more restrained.

“China’s decision to send a surveillance balloon into U.S. airspace was a gross violation of American sovereignty and it will not be tolerated,” Mr. Hawley said in a statement Wednesday evening. “We must send a message — and get the facts from this administration about what’s going on in our skies, while we’re at it.”

The resolution from Mr. Tester and Ms. Collins mirrored the House’s measure in many respects, though in parts it was more deferential to Mr. Biden — acknowledging, for example, that the U.S. Air Force had shot down the spy balloon “at the direction of the president, acting consistent with military advice.” It also specifically condemned the Chinese Communist Party for surveillance ventures over other countries, in a nod to the fact that spy balloons from China have traversed the airspace of more than 40 countries.

Wang Wenbin, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said Beijing opposed the resolutions, calling them “purely political manipulation and malicious hype.” He urged Congress to “immediately stop the wrong practice of smearing China, and stop taking actions that lead to escalation of the situation.”

The Senate’s bipartisan resolution also asked the administration to describe how it plans to work with other countries affected by such balloons, and to assess the value of the intelligence gained from allowing the balloon to cross several American states before bringing it down.

Mr. Tester has been one of the most outspoken Democrats calling for a reckoning over the handling of the balloon incident. He has questioned why the Biden administration did not order the craft shot down when it first crossed U.S. airspace over Alaska, and instead waited until it was over the Atlantic Ocean to bring it down.

In a video message released on Twitter after the quiet passage of the resolutions on Wednesday night, Mr. Tester said his bipartisan resolution was intended to send a message to China that “not only were their actions inappropriate, but their moves to replace us economically and militarily will fail.”

Senate Unanimously Condemns China for Spy Balloon, Joining the House – The New York Times (