House Republicans are preparing to issue subpoenas to senior members of the intelligence community and withhold spending in order to get information about why it took President Joe Biden eight days to respond to the Chinese spy balloon.
The Biden administration has so far been tight-lipped on details about the balloon and the administration’s response to it, according to Republican members who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon Tuesday. They have concerns about the Chinese operation, including Biden’s hesitation to shoot the balloon down and an anonymous Department of Defense official alleging to the press that the Trump administration allowed three similar balloons to fly over the continental United States without a military response.
Rep. Mike Bost (R., Ill.) said he is concerned that the public only became aware of the Chinese spy balloon after it was spotted by civilians. With Republicans in the majority, “subpoenas are well within our power,” Bost said, and could be “the stick in order to get people to come forward.” Bost also threatened to withhold spending if the Biden administration won’t give Congress answers.
“The Biden administration doesn’t understand that we’re the oversight and we control the purse,” Bost said. “Maybe we need to punish them with the purse and hit them as hard as we can.”
Bost’s comments come as House Republicans are in a standoff with the White House over raising the U.S. debt limit. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) is rejecting a clean debt ceiling raise and called on Biden Monday to negotiate with Republicans on cuts to discretionary domestic spending.
Despite efforts from some Democrats, such as Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) who called Republicans “bed wetters,” to dismiss Republican concerns about the balloon as frivolous, House Republicans made it clear they intend to keep the issue front and center. Republican threats come as the president is preparing to issue his second State of the Union address. Leaked White House talking points obtained by the Free Beacon suggest Biden intends to focus on the economy and future domestic spending proposals, rather than Sino-U.S. relations.
Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R., N.Y.) called the Biden administration’s response to the Chinese balloon an effort to “deflect attention from the crisis they’ve created.” After facing criticism for a weak response to China’s aggression, an anonymous official leaked intelligence that disparaged former president Donald Trump, Malliotakis said. But that leak left out a critical detail: Previous Chinese spy balloons under the prior administration went undetected by the Pentagon.
“Democrats always try to pivot and say, well, something happened under Trump, but this did not happen under Trump,” Malliotakis said before drawing comparisons to previous intelligence leaks under Trump related to Afghanistan and Russia. “These leaks are a problem and it’s the reason why Speaker Kevin took Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) off the House Intelligence Committee.”
Biden’s first reaction to the Chinese spy balloon entering U.S. territory is unclear. Reports surfaced alleging Biden initially called for it to be shot down immediately, but Pentagon officials overruled that decision.
Republicans want to know what the Pentagon’s protocol is for future Chinese spy missions. Waiting eight days for the military to intervene as Biden did, Rep. Lisa McClain (R., Mich.) said, is far too long.
“We should have subpoenas. We need to know what happened,” McClain said. “One reason, in a positive sense, to prevent it from happening again. This is a pattern from the Chinese government. They’re like a child, if I tell you curfew is 11 o’clock and you come home at 11:15 and nothing really happens, do you think it incentivizes more late curfew behavior?”
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