The House unanimously approved a resolution on Thursday condemning the Chinese Communist Party’s use of a spy balloon over the continental U.S., labeling the situation “a brazen violation of United States sovereignty.”
The resolution — which cleared the chamber in a bipartisan 419-0 vote — came to the House floor five days after the U.S. shot down the Chinese spy balloon off the South Carolina coast, intensifying tensions between Washington and Beijing.
“An event like this, Mr. Speaker, must not happen again. And it cannot go unanswered,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and sponsor of the measure, said on the House floor during debate Thursday.
“They only understand one thing and that is force, and that’s projecting power, and we need to project power and force and strength against the Chinese Communist Party,” he added. “They must understand that we do desire peace, but infringing upon our sovereignty leads us down a dangerous path. 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.”
The Pentagon last week announced that it was tracking a high-altitude Chinese surveillance balloon floating over the U.S., prompting widespread media coverage. On Saturday, the U.S. shot down the object over water off the coast of South Carolina, and the American military is now working to recover the debris.
The situation prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone his trip to Beijing.
Republicans were quick to criticize President Biden for waiting days to shoot down the balloon, which allowed the object to float across several states in the U.S. The president said he ordered the Pentagon last week to shoot down the balloon “as soon as possible,” and his national security officials determined that “the best time to do that was when it got over water.”
Despite the criticism, McCaul this week said he wanted the resolution to be a bipartisan effort rather than a partisan measure that knocked the Biden administration.
“It’s too important of an issue,” McCaul told reporters on Monday. “We want to stand strong together against China instead of having our internal fights.”
The resolution calls on the Biden administration to continue keeping Congress apprised of developments through “comprehensive briefings on this incident” that include a timeline of when the balloon was first detected to when it was shot down, an assessment of surveillance data the People’s Republic of China was potentially able to collect or send, a detailed account of measures taken to mitigate the intelligence collection threat from the balloon, a description of options to mitigate the situation, and an account of diplomatic communications between Washington and Beijing on the matter.
The resolution also requests information on previous times the People’s Republic of China used surveillance balloons across the world.
And it denounces Beijing for its “efforts to deceive the international community through false claims about its intelligence collection campaigns” that violated American sovereignty. Beijing has insisted the object was a civilian weather balloon that went off course and mistakenly entered U.S. airspace.