Michael Bennet

Senator from Colorado
Jump to  stances on the issues
Michael Bennet dropped out of the presidential race on February 11, 2020. This page is no longer being updated.
Bennet has pitched himself as a pragmatic lawmaker with a progressive voting record. He was first appointed to the US Senate in 2009 and subsequently elected in 2010 and 2016.
Wesleyan University, B.A., 1987; Yale Law School, 1993
November 28, 1964
Susan Daggett
Unaffiliated
Halina, Anne and Caroline
Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, 2005-2009;
Chief of staff to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, 2003;
Managing director, Anschutz Investment Company, 1997-2003;
Special assistant to the US attorney for Connecticut, 1997;
Counsel to the US deputy attorney general, 1995-1997

BENNET IN THE NEWS

7 takeaways from the Colorado Senate debate
Updated 11:59 PM ET, Fri Oct 28, 2022
In a year when they are hoping for a red wave, Republicans have set their sights on defeating Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in their quest to gain control of the Senate chamber. On Friday night, Bennet engaged in a fast-paced and testy final debate with moderate GOP rival Joe O'Dea, who has distanced himself from former president Donald Trump as he has blamed Democrats for inflation and an energy policy that "straps working Americans." Bennet, a Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for the White House in 2020, is facing a tougher than expected challenge from O'Dea, a construction company CEO and first-time candidate. Inside Elections currently rates the race as "Likely Democratic." In a year when many Republican candidates clinched their primaries by showing their fealty to Trump, O'Dea is the rare GOP contender who has been eager to flex his independence from the former president. Things got heated during the Friday night matchup at Colorado State University in Fort Collins as both Bennet and O'Dea sought to win over undecided independent voters in their state, which President Joe Biden won by 13 percentage points. At one point, Bennet repeatedly blasted O'Dea for what said were inaccuracies about the number of bills he has passed: "You're a liar Joe," he said. "You're a liar." He also sought to cast O'Dea as an opportunist who would make policy decisions to curry favor with wealthy Americans. But O'Dea said in his closing argument that the election "is a referendum on Joe Biden and his economy." Here are seven takeaways from their matchup: Bennet seeks distance from Biden Biden's approval ratings have been a drag on many Democratic candidates and Bennet came prepared with examples of areas where he would distance himself from the president. Bennet, for example, said he disagreed with Biden's approach to student loan debt forgiveness, saying the president should have been more targeted with effort to forgive up to $20,000 in student loans for those earning less than $125,000 per year. "I don't think he should've done it the way he did it," Bennet said. "It wasn't nearly what I thought they should do, which is do it for the people that need it the most -- the poorest people in our country that have that debt. ... I just think it's wrong for them to do it that way," Bennet said. Bennet repeatedly tried to tie O'Dea to Trump Even though O'Dea has distanced himself from Trump, Bennet repeatedly sought to remind the audience that O'Dea voted for the former president. As he touted his own record pushing for a bipartisan compromise to address the country's immigration issues as part of the "Gang of 8," he pivoted to an attack on O'Dea for voting for Trump in 2016 and 2020. "I didn't vote for a president who made it impossible for us to get anything done on immigration," Bennet said. "Joe O'Dea voted for that president twice." O'Dea rebuffed that jab: "A lot of talking. We are hearing a lot of talking. You have been talking for 13 years and you haven't got it done. Michael Bennet doesn't deliver results. What he does is vote with Joe Biden 98% of the time," O'Dea said. "And the result is an economy that's trash." The moderator, at one point, asked O'Dea -- who recently told CNN's Dana Bash that he would "actively" oppose the former president if he ran for the White House in 2024 -- whether he stood by his previous statements that he'd still vote for Trump if he's the 2024 Republican nominee. "I said what I said," O'Dea replied. "I'm a contractor, not a politician." Bennet didn't let that opportunity slip away. He noted that O'Dea voted for Trump "after children were separated from their parents at the border" and after the former president said there were "good people" on both sides after violence erupted at a gathering of White supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. "What changed?" Bennet directly asked O'Dea, that would lead him to say that he would still support Trump in 2024 after all his criticism of the former president. "Well, I started thinking about Joe Biden serving another four years and you serving another six years and I gotta tell you, it's terrifying," O'Dea said. "Working Americans here, need a voice. I'll be the voice of reason that says, 'You know what, we need to be disciplined. We need to do what's right for Colorado instead of just hanging with my party 98% of the time.'" Bennet breaks down Democrats' efforts to lower costs for Americans Democrats have struggled to articulate a message that both addresses the economic pain that Americans are feeling while simultaneously touting their own legislative accomplishment, including the health care, tax and climate bill they passed this year known as the "Inflation Reduction Act." One of the debate moderators noted that despite the name of the act, it "will not, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, reduce inflation in any meaningful way." Did Democrats, the moderator asked Bennet, mislead Americans by calling it that? Bennet disputed the notion that the American people were misled and tried to break down that legislation into clear, digestible bites, including the savings that Colorado voters might expect from it. "Unlike the Trump tax cuts -- this bill was actually paid for and it would cap drug prices for seniors at $2,000 in Colorado," he said. "It would require Medicare for the first time in American history to negotiate drug prices on behalf of the American people. And it caps insulin at $35 a month. Joe O'Dea says there's nothing to like in that bill. I think there are a lot of Coloradans, especially seniors, that are going to find a lot to like in this bill." Key differences on abortion A common attack line from Republicans after the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision is that it is Democrats who are too extreme on abortion -- because some progressive candidates have not defined what limits, if any, they would place on the procedure. Bennet defended his support of legislation that would not put restrictions on abortion in Friday night's debate. "Only 1% of the abortions in our state in this country are late term abortions. And they're the worst circumstances a mother could have," Bennet said. "These are circumstances where she's carried the baby to term. She's picked out a room for the child. She's named the child. She's expecting the child to be there and for medically horrific reasons. She's having to have an abortion. That's 1%. And I don't think Joe O'Dea should be in that hospital room with her when she's got to make that decision. I don't think any politician should." O'Dea, for his part, said he supports "a woman's right to choose" up to five months. After that time period, the Republican said he supports exceptions for rape, incest and medical emergencies including risk to the life of the mother. "I can't vote for late term abortion. I believe women's health rights are paramount," O'Dea said. "I would support a woman's right to choose up to and including five months. ... Michael Bennet on the other hand, he has voted for abortion up to, and including the moment of birth, and he wants to use taxpayer funding to pay for it. To me that's extreme." Common ground on guns Bennet and O'Dea found some common ground when moderators asked about gun control measures. Both said they support universal background checks, and both said they opposed mandatory 10-day waiting periods to purchase firearms. But they split on whether to increase the legal age to purchase assault rifles from 18 to 21. Bennet said he would support such a measure; O'Dea said he wants "no more laws" on guns. "We've got plenty of laws on the books," O'Dea said. "We need to enforce the laws that are on the books now. And I will not be lectured by Democrats that say we need to change this gun law, change that gun law, when they fail to enforce the laws that we already have on the books." O'Dea also said he opposes a ban on the sale of assault rifles, which Bennet supports. "I think we've made enough of these weapons of war in this country," Bennet said. A split on immigration O'Dea said he would not support legislation to create a path to citizenship for those who benefited from the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program if the legislation did not include other provisions like funding for border security. The program was intended to help undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children (many of whom are now adults). "No, we need a comprehensive bill. We need one that safes up and secures the border, which includes putting up a barrier to give working sheriffs, Border Patrol, a break down there. That's what they are asking us to do," O'Dea said. "In that same bill, I would support legislation that would include DACA recipients getting their citizenship." Bennet, by contrast, was eager to show his commitment to stand-alone legislation that would address the legal limbo that DACA recipients have faced. "Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes," Bennet said. "That puts me in a totally different place from where Joe O'Dea is, who just said he wouldn't vote for a standalone bill for DACA." "Unfortunately, the president that Joe O'Dea voted for twice after he called Mexicans 'rapists' on the first day of his campaign, made it impossible for the national Republican party to move forward on immigration," Bennet added. A lively debate on Space Command O'Dea said Bennet should have drawn greater inspiration during his time in Washington from a Democratic thorn in his own party's side: West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. O'Dea's comments came as the two discussed the planned move of US Space Command from Colorado Springs, Colorado, to Huntsville, Alabama -- a decision made while Trump was in office. Bennet said he has pressed the case to the White House and the Pentagon for keeping Space Command in Colorado. But O'Dea said Bennet should have exercised the same sort of power that Manchin has to extract concessions in a Senate evenly divided 50-50, where Vice President Kamala Harris casts the tie-breaking vote and Democrats cannot afford to lose a single vote on their priorities. "I'm going to use my seat like Joe Manchin has used his seat to get good things for West Virginia," O'Dea said. "All Michael Bennet had to do was say, 'You know what, I'm going to hold up this appointment. I'm going to hold up this bill. I'm going to hold up that bill.'" "Fifty is what the count is, and they needed every vote. And I would use my seat to make sure that we keep Space Command here in Colorado. It's that important," O'Dea said. "If you would have held up one just of those votes -- one of those votes -- we would have Space Command here," O'Dea added. Bennet shot back that O'Dea didn't rescind his support for Trump at the time the Space Command move was announced, but rather waited until just before the Senate election to break with the former
READ MORE

STANCES ON THE ISSUES

climate crisis
Close Accordion Pane
Bennet has said he doesn’t support the Green New Deal, the broad plan to address renewable-energy infrastructure and climate change proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Instead, he has released his own five-principle plan, which would significantly increase the protection of public lands. “I think it is great that we have a bunch of bold proposals out there,” Bennet said in May 2019. “We are going to have a competition of ideas.” Bennet has set a target of 100% net-zero emissions by no later than 2050, although he has not detailed how he would reach this goal. He also said he would create a $1 trillion “climate bank” to invest in infrastructure and, he hopes, spur private investment in green energy innovation. Bennet says the plan would create 10 million jobs over a decade related to what he calls the “zero-emission economy.”Bennet has said he would keep the US in the Paris climate agreement, a landmark 2015 deal on global warming targets that Trump has pledged to abandon. More on Bennet’s climate crisis policy
economy
Open Accordion Pane
Bennet has not signed on with congressional Democratic efforts to pass a $15 minimum wage. According to his campaign, he favors an increase to $12 per hour. He’s also introduced legislation to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and overhaul and expand the child tax credit, which currently provides families with a credit of up to $2,000 for each dependent under 17. Under Bennet’s plan, families would get a $300 monthly credit for each child under 6 and $250 a month for each child under 17. He has actively opposed some of Trump’s trade actions. With Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, Bennet filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to reverse the President’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, and he has opposed Trump’s trade war with China, specifically because of the negative impact on American farmers. But he has also said Trump “was right to call China out.” More on Bennet’s economic policy
education
Open Accordion Pane
Bennet unveiled a plan in September 2019 pledging that by 2028, “every child born in this country, regardless of circumstance, will be at the center of a community that offers them a real chance to flourish personally and prosper financially,” according to his campaign. The plan calls for a federal-state partnership to establish free nationwide preschool, support for school districts that establish longer school days and school years, free community college for all Americans, increases to teacher pay and more funding for schools in rural areas and “high-poverty and otherwise underserved schools.” As Denver schools superintendent, Bennet was deeply involved in shaping merit-pay plans for teachers. As a presidential candidate he has called for taking steps to raise teacher pay. “We have to pay teachers as the professionals that they are. And that’s not just a little bit more. That is a lot more,” he said at a CNN town hall. More on Bennet’s education policy
gun violence
Open Accordion Pane
Bennet has voted to ban high-capacity magazines and supports universal background checks. While he did not co-sponsor the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019, Bennet says he would support banning so-called assault weapons. He did not endorse the recent legislation because it “was overly drawn and allowed the manufacturers to avoid the ban,” he told CNN in May 2019.
healthcare
Open Accordion Pane
Bennet is not in favor of plans that would eliminate private insurance. He co-sponsored a plan known as “Medicare-X” that would let individuals and small businesses buy government-backed insurance policies, known as a public option, on the Affordable Care Act exchanges. The plan would also allow the government to negotiate prescription drug prices. Bennet says Americans should still have choice when it comes to health insurance. “We need to get to universal health care,” he said during the first Democratic debate. “I believe the way to do that is by finishing the work we started with Obamacare and creating a public option.” In July 2019, he introduced a rural health care plan that would harness technology to provide medical services in rural communities, including allowing doctors to see patients via video chat and remotely monitor patients. The plan would provide up to $10,000 a year in loan forgiveness and repayment support for doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who choose to work in rural areas. And it would invest $60 billion to combat substance abuse, including building more treatment centers. More on Bennet’s health care policy
immigration
Open Accordion Pane
Bennet has compared Trump’s separation of families at the border to his Jewish mother’s experience being separated from her own parents as a child in Poland during the Holocaust. “When I see these kids at the border, I see my mom,” Bennet said during the first Democratic debate. He has called for overhauling the asylum process and restoring aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to reduce the flow of migrants north. He’s a co-sponsor to a Senate bill called the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act. Bennet has said he still stands by the last major bipartisan immigration package, negotiated in 2013, which included a pathway to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants. He also co-sponsored the DREAM Act of 2009, some of which was eventually put into effect through Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program protecting from deportation some undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US as minors.

LATEST POLITICAL NEWS

China protests as US fighter jets shoot down suspected spy balloon
Updated 10:42 PM ET, Sun Feb 5, 2023
The transiting of three suspected Chinese spy balloons over the continental United States during the Trump administration was only discovered after President Joe Biden took office, a senior administration official told CNN on Sunday. The official did not say how or when those incidents were discovered. After the Biden administration disclosed last week that a suspected Chinese spy balloon was hovering over Montana, the Pentagon said similar balloon incidents had occurred during the Trump administration. In response, former Trump administration Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN on Friday that he was “surprised” by that statement.  “I don’t ever recall somebody coming into my office or reading anything that the Chinese had a surveillance balloon above the United States,” he said. Former President Donald Trump also said on Truth Social that reports of Chinese balloons transiting the US during his administration were “fake disinformation.”   CNN reported on Sunday that the Pentagon had briefed Congress of previous Chinese surveillance balloons during the Trump administration that flew near Texas and Florida.  Rep. Michael Waltz confirmed in a statement to CNN that “currently, we understand there were incursions near Florida and Texas, but we don’t have clarity on what kind of systems were on these balloons or if these incursions occurred in territorial waters or overflew land.” Another Chinese spy balloon also transited the continental US briefly at the beginning of the Biden administration, the senior administration official said. But the balloon that was shot down by the US military on Saturday was unique in both the path it took, down from Alaska and Canada into the US, and the length of time it spent loitering over sensitive missile sites in Montana, officials said.  The senior administration official said analysis is ongoing into the capabilities of the balloon shot down on Saturday, adding “closely observing the balloon in flight has allowed us to better understand this Chinese program and further confirmed its mission was surveillance.” The Biden administration believes the Chinese surveillance program has been deployed in countries across five continents over the past several years. US Navy personnel have been removing items from boats and loading material onto trucks at the Johnny Causey Boat Landing in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on Sunday, according to a CNN team at the scene. In cell phone video shot earlier in the day that was obtained by CNN, a pile of white material was visible on the deck of one of the boats and several people dressed in camouflage could be seen near the boat. Another boat that appeared to hold similar material could also be seen at a nearby dock. The people could also be seen unloading several boxes off one of the boats. CNN cannot confirm that the material is debris from the suspected Chinese spy balloon. On Sunday night, the personnel would not say what they were doing or why they were working at the boat landing, which is situated along the Intercoastal Waterway in North Myrtle Beach. They have been identified as Navy personnel according to their uniforms and vessel signage present at the location. CNN has reached out the Navy Sunday afternoon. British officials were kept abreast before and after US military fighter jets shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over the Atlantic Ocean near the US coastline on Saturday, according to a UK official. As the US tracked the balloon the UK was provided updates and the US assessment from the National Security Council and State Department, the UK official told CNN on Sunday. The official said they were "discussing closely" the situation with the United States. Once the balloon was shot down on Saturday, the official said they got an update from the Pentagon. "The US assessment points to a concerning and deliberate violation of their sovereign territory and airspace. We strongly support the decisive action taken by the US and will be following the investigation into this incident," the UK official said.   Earlier on Sunday, UK business secretary Grant Shapps said Britain supported the US' actions. "It cannot be right to send spy balloons over the American mainland. The UK would always take national security very seriously," Shapps said in a radio interview. GOP Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida says the Pentagon has briefed members of Congress about previous Chinese surveillance balloons that flew near Texas and Florida during the Trump administration.  “Currently, we understand there were incursions near Florida and Texas, but we don’t have clarity on what kind of systems were on these balloons or if these incursions occurred in territorial waters or overflew land,” Waltz said said in a statement to CNN.  The new details about previous surveillance balloons were confirmed by two additional sources familiar with the briefings. It comes amid Republican criticism of the Biden administration for not earlier shooting down the balloon that flew from Alaska to the Carolinas for several days before it was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday. A US official said Friday there had been similar incidents over Hawaii and Guam in recent years. A senior US defense official said Saturday there were three instances during the Trump administration where China briefly transited a surveillance balloon over the continental United States, and once previously during the Biden administration. Former Trump administration Defense Secretary Mark Esper, however, said he was “surprised” by the Pentagon’s statement that similar incidents happened during the Trump administration. “I don’t ever recall somebody coming into my office or reading anything that the Chinese had a surveillance balloon above the United States,” he told CNN Friday. With the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon shot down over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are gearing up for briefings on China and how the Biden administration handled the short-lived, but geopolitically tense, crisis. The Gang of Eight will receive a briefing as early Tuesday, according to a congressional source. The group consists of top Democratic and Republican leaders in both the House and Senate, as well as key Intelligence Committee members from both chambers. It is generally privy to sensitive information that the rest of Congress is not always briefed on. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Sunday that the full Senate will receive a classified briefing on China from the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment. That briefing is slated for February 15, according to a congressional source. Schumer said the briefing will include information about China’s surveillance capabilities, research and development, advanced weapons systems, and other “critical platforms.” “The full Senate -- all senators of both parties -- will have a larger and full China briefing next week. And that is something that I think will be very important, serious and hopefully nonpolitical,” the New York Democrat said at a news conference in Manhattan. House Republicans are weighing a vote this week on a resolution condemning the Biden administration for its handling of the surveillance balloon, a source familiar with the discussions told CNN. The resolution could be voted on also as early as Tuesday, the same day President Joe Biden will deliver the State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress at the US Capitol. The source cautioned to CNN, however, that discussions were still ongoing, and no firm plans had been made as yet.  Republicans have been increasingly critical of the administration in recent days, accusing it of being slow to take action against the spy balloon and making the US look weak. Leon Panetta, who served as Defense secretary and CIA director in the Obama administration, offered a rare Democratic critique Sunday of the Biden administration's handling of the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon. "If it was [a spy balloon], and if we were aware of the balloon, I think we should have taken steps to prevent it from entering our air space, and I'm not sure that we should have allowed it to simply cross over the country, cross over what were obviously sensitive military sites," Panetta told CNN's Jim Acosta. "I don't see the logic of that." President Joe Biden told reporters Saturday that he gave the order Wednesday to take down the balloon “as soon as possible." That did not happen until Saturday after top military officials advised against shooting down the balloon while over the continental US because of the risk the debris could pose to civilians and property on the ground. "The Pentagon said there were risks here. I understand that argument, there were debris risks. At the same time, I think we should have acted earlier if our suspicions were valid that this was, in fact, on an intelligence mission. I hope in the future we make clear to ... China that this kind of incident cannot happen again," Panetta said. Panetta said Biden would have faced less criticism if he had been transparent with Americans when officials first considered the balloon was on an intelligence-gathering mission and when Biden made the decision to have it shot down. "The American people, I think, are entitled to know just exactly what our adversaries are up to," Panetta said. House Republicans are weighing the passage of a resolution this week condemning the Biden administration for its handling of the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon, a source familiar with the discussions told CNN. The resolution could be voted on as early as Tuesday, the same day President Joe Biden will deliver the State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress at the US Capitol. The source cautioned to CNN, however, that discussions were still ongoing, and no firm plans had been made as yet.  Republican has been increasingly critical of the administration in recent days, accusing it of being slow to take action against the spy balloon and making the US look weak. US military fighter jets shot down the balloon over the Atlantic Ocean off the Eastern Seaboard of the US on Saturday. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Biden administration’s decision to shoot down the Chinese spy balloon on Saturday came “too late” and let China “make a mockery” of US airspace. “As usual when it comes to national defense and foreign policy, the Biden Administration reacted at first too indecisively and then too late. We should not have let the People’s Republic of China make a mockery of our airspace," the Kentucky Republican said in a statement Sunday. "It defies belief to suggest there was nowhere between the Aleutian Islands of Alaska and the coast of Carolina where this balloon could have been shot down right away without endangering Americans or Canadians," McConnell added. "This was a reminder of the PRC’s brazenness and President Biden missed the opportunity to defend our sovereignty, send a message of strength, and bolster deterrence,” he said. Biden told reporters Saturday that he gave the order Wednesday to take down the balloon “as soon as possible” and that the military waited to act until it had passed over the Atlantic Ocean to avoid “doing damage to anyone on the ground.” In his statement, McConnell cited reports of similar surveillance balloons being spotted in Latin America and elsewhere and said he would like to see the Biden administration work with US allies to defend against the "brazen Chinese espionage." A senior administration official and a senior Pentagon official told CNN that the suspected Chinese spy balloon became a cause for more concern when it became clear on Tuesday that it would cross in the contiguous United States.  The officials said that it was not out of the ordinary for such a balloon to come near or inside Alaskan territory, adding that such encroachments weren’t necessarily a cause for alarm. However, when the balloon took a direct path down to the lower 48 states, US officials began to realize they were dealing with a much different scenario that needed to be elevated to President Joe Biden. The Pentagon official said the fact that the balloon was loitering also drew attention. That realization occurred Tuesday and triggered a presidential briefing with Biden on Wednesday in which military options were presented.  The explanation of the timeline comes as Republicans have been fiercely critical of the Biden administration for not acting sooner to stop the balloon.  The senior Pentagon official told CNN that if the balloon had followed a normal trajectory, “we would have collected on it and we would have monitored it and communicated across Canada and all stations" but added that “this thing became different when it started to loiter over Canada, then it dipped down into Idaho.”  “One that comes down south, loiters, is controlled, is directional -- that’s different,” the official said. A Gang of Eight briefing on the suspected Chinese spy balloon may occur as early as Tuesday, according to a congressional source. The group is made up of the top Democratic and Republican leaders in both the House and Senate, as well as key Intelligence Committee members from both chambers. It is generally privy to sensitive information that the rest of Congress is not always briefed on. A full Senate classified briefing on China will occur on February 15, the source said. US military fighter jets shot down the balloon over the Atlantic Ocean off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States on Saturday, ending a remarkable public drama that prompted a diplomatic fallout between Washington and Beijing. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Sunday that the full Senate would receive a comprehensive briefing on China next week. “The full Senate -- all senators of both parties -- will have a larger and full China briefing next week. And that is something that I think will be very important, serious and hopefully nonpolitical,” the New York Democrat said at a news conference in Manhattan. “Under this full brief, all senators in both parties will be briefed by the Department of Defense on their office of Net Assessment (ONA) US-China Overmatch Study.” Schumer said the briefing will include information about China’s surveillance capabilities, research and development, advanced weapons systems, and other “critical platforms.” He also pushed back on criticism from GOP lawmakers regarding how the Biden administration handled the response to the suspected Chinese spy balloon, which was shot down Saturday over the Atlantic Ocean off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. “We are hearing GOP criticism of the balloon mission. That they are saying we should have shot down the balloon the minute we saw it. I would use two words in answering these GOP criticisms: They are premature and they are political. Our friends are playing politics with US intelligence. We sent a clear message to China that this is not acceptable. We protected civilians. We gained more intelligence while protecting our own sensitive information. And the bottom line here is shooting down the surveillance balloon over water wasn’t just the safest option, but it was the one that maximized our intelligence payload.”  Republican Sen. Ted Cruz on Sunday praised President Joe Biden for “having the guts” to shoot down the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon but said the decision to wait days “telegraphed weakness." “I want to start by doing something that I don't do very often, which is commending Joe Biden for actually having the guts to shoot this down. That was the right thing to do. That is absolutely what the president should have done,” Cruz told CBS News.   “Unfortunately, he didn't do that until a week after it entered US airspace. He allowed a full week for the Chinese to conduct spying operations over the United States, over sensitive military installations, exposing not just photographs but the potential of intercepted communications. And more broadly, I think this entire episode telegraphed weakness to [Chinese leader Xi Jinping] and the Chinese government,” he continued. Biden, for his part, told reporters Saturday that he gave the order Wednesday to take down the balloon “as soon as possible” and that the military waited to act until it had passed over the Atlantic Ocean to avoid “doing damage to anyone on the ground.”   In an interview on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg reiterated Pentagon and White House talking points on the suspected spy balloon, saying that “steps were taken to prevent any problems in terms of intelligence collection." The Republican chair of the newly formed House select committee on China called on the Biden administration Sunday to be more firm in its diplomatic relations with Beijing following the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon episode. Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher told Fox News that the balloon incident “makes us look weak and flat-footed on the world stage” and implored the White House to engage with China with a renewed skepticism. “The message I have for the Biden administration is: 'Don't fall for the Chinese Communist Party charm offensive.' It's a farce. It's a bedtime story they tell out-of-touch global elites at Davos. It's time to push back before it's too late, before something far more dangerous than a balloon is flying over American territory,” Gallagher said.  Gallagher criticized the White House for its response to taking the balloon down, likening the balloon’s dayslong flight over the continental US to a home invasion.  “Letting a Chinese surveillance balloon lazily drift over America is like seeing a robber on your front porch and inviting him in, showing him where you keep your safe, where you keep your guns, where your children sleep at night, and then politely asking him to leave. It makes no sense,” the congressman said.  Gallagher said he believes the balloon “absolutely” could have been taken down after it crossed Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. He said the US should develop the capability to take down surveillance balloons easily if the military isn’t able to already.  “If we don't have the capability to neutralize it, corral it, collect it, look under the hood and exploit it, well, that's a capability we need to develop with an $850 billion defense budget. Because I suspect it’s not the last time we're going to see a Chinese probe,” Gallagher said. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican, said Sunday that "there is no excuse" for the Biden administration waiting to shoot down the suspected Chinese spy balloon before it began crossing the continental US. “The president taking it down over the Atlantic is sort of like tackling the quarterback after the game is over. The satellite had completed its mission,” Turner told NBC News. “This should never have been allowed to enter the United States, and it never should have been allowed to complete its mission.” He added, “They need to make clear to all our adversaries, you're not going to get to come the United States and take a tour of our most sensitive military sites, and have a free show.” Turner told NBC News that there is a briefing scheduled for this week on the intelligence assessment of the classified documents found at former President Donald Trump’s home, and that documents discovered in President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence’s possession will also be included in the briefing. He was not specific as to whether the briefing would be with the Intelligence Committee or the so-called Gang of Eight -- which includes the party leaders in the House and Senate and the four leaders of the two Intelligence committees.  “There’s nothing scheduled on the balloon, but they’re scheduling Donald Trump,” Turner said, noting that Biden and Pence documents would be “included.” “It's supposed to be this week, we’ll see whether or not the balloon happens first,” he said. Multiple US Navy and Coast Guard vessels are in the area where the suspected Chinese spy balloon went down and are securing a perimeter, according to a senior US military official said. The official told CNN that the Navy had anticipated having to recover debris in deeper water, but it landed at a depth of about 47 feet, which "will make it fairly easy." The official said "capable Navy divers" will go down as needed into the water to assist in the operation. There are also “unmanned vessels that can go down to get the structure and lift it back up on the recovery ship,” the official added. The official did not know how long it would take crews to recover any salvageable equipment from the downed aircraft but noted that recovery could take "a relatively short time." "I don't anticipate months and weeks," the official said. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire on Sunday slammed President Joe Biden’s response to the suspected Chinese spy balloon as “too little too late.” “This is all about China testing the American resolve,” Sununu said on "This Week" on ABC. “They know that tensions are escalating, and they want to see what kind of leadership we have.” “The president clearly failed on this one,” he added. Biden, for his part, told reporters Saturday that he gave the order Wednesday to take down the balloon “as soon as possible” and that the military waited to act until it had passed over the Atlantic Ocean to avoid “doing damage to anyone on the ground.”  CNN previously reported that the president also wanted the military to shoot down the balloon in such a way that it would maximize the ability to recover its payload, allowing the US intelligence community to sift through its components and gain insights into its capabilities, officials said. Shooting it down over water also increased the chances of being able to recover the payload intact, the officials said. Republicans such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio have countered that Biden should have been more forthcoming with the American public when he first learned about the suspected spy balloon. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, said Sunday the Biden administration should have gone public about the Chinese balloon much earlier than it did. “Presidents have the ability 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,” Rubio told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “And that is the beginning of dereliction of duty.”  The Florida Republican expanded on that message in an interview with ABC News Sunday. “I recognize that you shoot something out of the sky that's the size of three buses and it lands in the wrong place it could hurt, harm, kill people or damage infrastructure,” he told ABC. “But by the same token, I think that if that was the case, then I think it really would have been helpful for the President of the United States to get on national television and explain to the American people ‘this is what we're dealing with. this is what I'm going to do about it, and this is why I haven't done it yet.’” Rubio also expressed skepticism on Sunday that the recovery of the balloon would lead to the discovery of anything new about Chinese intelligence operations, or that the Chinese received information from the balloon that it couldn’t have gotten by other, less visible means. “I think more than anything else, beyond just the ability to collect information, it is the ability to send a clear message,” Rubio told CNN, “and that is that ‘we have the ability to do this and America can't do anything about it. If they're not going to be able to stop a balloon from flying over U.S. airspace, how is America going to come to your aid if we invade Taiwan, or take land from India, or take islands from the Philippines and Japan?’” Still, Rubio told CNN that he is “not sure there should be a direct individual consequence,” for the Chinese incursion into US airspace. “I think the broader relationship between the US and China, to anyone who has any doubts about it, now the bottom line is here, and that is we are now a – China has been for some time and will be the primary strategic adversary of the United States and we should be focused on it.” He also dismissed threats from the Chinese that the US had set a dangerous precedent by shooting down what they claim is a civilian balloon as “silly talk.” “Listen, if we were to fly anything over China, they're gonna shoot it down. They're gonna shoot it down, and they're gonna hold it up and they're gonna take pictures of it and they're gonna go bonkers about it. So, I don't know what statement they're making – you can't fly anything over China now, anyway.” Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas on Sunday criticized the Biden administration’s response to the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon, saying the White House was “paralyzed for an entire week” and calling the incident an “embarrassment.”  Cotton, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, echoed the sentiments of other Republican lawmakers in accusing President Joe Biden of shying away from confrontation with China after the military waited three days to down the balloon. “What began as a spy balloon has become a trial balloon testing President Biden’s strength and resolve, and unfortunately, the president failed that test,” Cotton said in an interview Sunday with Fox News.  Biden, for his part, told reporters Saturday that he gave the order Wednesday to take down the balloon “as soon as possible” and that the military waited to act until it had passed over the Atlantic Ocean to avoid “doing damage to anyone on the ground.”  A senior US defense official said Saturday that there were three instances during the Trump administration in which a Chinese balloon traveled over the continental United States. Cotton said Sunday he’s spoken to former Trump administration officials who told him they were “not aware of anything like this happening” while Donald Trump was in office.  “Maybe what's even more worrisome is, one, that our senior military know about these balloons in the past and not inform their civilian superiors during the Trump administration. Or maybe worst of all, did we not know about these balloons in the past and we only learned about them in retrospect by studying historical data,” Cotton said. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Sunday defended President Joe Biden's decision to wait until the suspected Chinese spy balloon was over open water to have it shot down.  “The president gave instructions to have it handled, to have it shot down in a way that was safe,” Buttigieg told CNN’s Jake Tapper on "State of the Union." The secretary also confirmed reporting that the debris field created by the downed balloon was seven miles long. “Any time the military's considering an operation like that, they have to consider the safety of the American people. The president called for this to be dealt with in a way that balanced all of the different risks. That's exactly what happened. The military did a terrific job,” he added. Buttigieg said the Transportation Department's responsibility was the safety of national airspace, and the agency worked closely with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Defense Department to secure the operation “without damage or injury.” Asked to respond to criticism about the Biden administration's handling of the spy balloon, Buttigieg said, “It's not acceptable at all that China sent this object into our airspace. But in terms of how to handle it, that's something that was done based on assessment of the risks.” Asked by Tapper if the balloon was able to gather sensitive information and transmit it back to Beijing, Buttigieg reiterated Pentagon and White House talking points that “steps were taken to prevent any problems in terms of intelligence collection.” It would take seven days from when the suspected Chinese spy balloon first entered US airspace before an F-22 fighter jet fired a heat-seeking missile into it on the opposite end of the country, sending its equipment and machinery tumbling into the Atlantic Ocean. In his Tuesday briefing with the president, Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, informed Joe Biden the balloon appeared to be on a clear path into the continental United States, differentiating it from previous Chinese surveillance craft. The president appeared inclined at that point to take the balloon down and asked Milley and other military officials to draw up options and contingencies. At the same time, Biden asked his national security team to take steps to prevent the balloon from being able to gather any intelligence -- essentially, by making sure no sensitive military activity or unencrypted communications would be conducted in its vicinity, officials said. That evening, Pentagon officials met to review their military options. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, traveling abroad in Asia, participated virtually. NASA was also brought in to analyze and assess the potential debris field, based on the trajectory of the balloon, weather, and estimated payload. When options were presented to Biden on Wednesday, he directed his military leadership to shoot down the balloon as soon as they viewed it as a viable option, given concerns about risks to people and property on the ground. But Austin and Milley told Biden the risks of shooting the balloon down were too high while it was moving over the US, given the chance debris could endanger lives or property on the ground below. “They said to me, ‘Let’s wait till the safest place to do it,’” Biden told reporters Saturday. Biden had another key request, though: He wanted the military to shoot down the balloon in such a way that it would maximize their ability to recover its payload, allowing the US intelligence community to sift through its components and gain insights into its capabilities, officials said. Shooting it down over water also increased the chances of being able to recover the payload intact, the officials said. Read more here. China has reacted to the United States’ decision to shoot down its high-altitude balloon, saying that it "reserves the right to use necessary means to deal with similar situations." US military fighter jets on Saturday shot down the Chinese high-altitude balloon over the Atlantic Ocean. These are the latest developments. President Joe Biden on Saturday approved shooting down the balloon, telling CNN that his administration was “gonna take care” of it. On Friday, the Pentagon said the balloon did not pose a military or political threat. The US military downed the balloon over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday. Navy and Coast Guard vessels are scouring the ocean area for debris. The remains of the Chinese balloon will be taken to an FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, for analysis by FBI experts and intelligence agencies, officials said. The Chinese government on Sunday issued a statement expressing its “strong dissatisfaction and protest” against Washington’s actions. “China clearly asked the US to handle it properly in a calm, professional and restrained manner,” read a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry. “China will resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of relevant companies, while reserving the right to make further necessary reaction.” The head of China’s weather service has been relieved of his duty, Chinese state media announced on Saturday, in a move seen by some analysts as an attempt to shore up Beijing’s position that the high-altitude balloon flying over the continental US was of civilian nature mainly for meteorological purposes.    Hours after the Chinese balloon was shot down, Colombian Air Force authorities detected an object with “characteristics similar to a balloon” in its airspace on February 3. More balloon sightings were also reported, including three instances during the Trump administration when China briefly flew a surveillance balloon over the continental United States. Taiwan voiced its opinion on the matter, saying that the incident "should not be tolerated by the international community.” The head of China’s weather service has been relieved of his duty, Chinese state media announced on Saturday, in a move seen by some analysts as an attempt to shore up Beijing’s position that the high-altitude balloon flying over the continental US was of civilian nature mainly for meteorological purposes.    The announcement carried by state-run Xinhua news agency came after a senior US defense official said on Thursday that they were tracking a Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon flying over the continental US.   Zhuang Guotai was the head of China Meteorological Administration until Friday, but his departure from that post was not unexpected. In late January, Zhuang was elected the head of the western Gansu province’s People’s Political Consultative Committee, the provincial political advisory body. US military fighter jets shot down the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over the Atlantic Ocean off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed Saturday. The operation ended a remarkable public drama that prompted a diplomatic fallout between Washington and Beijing, as Americans tracked the balloon from Montana all the way to the Carolinas. China said Sunday it “reserves the right to use necessary means to deal with similar situations,” following the United States' decision to shoot down a high-altitude balloon. “The US used force to attack our civilian unmanned airship, which is an obvious overreaction. We express solemn protest against this move by the US side,” China’s Defense Ministry spokesperson Tan Kefei said in a statement on Sunday afternoon local time. A senior US administration official has pushed back on China’s repeated claims that the downed balloon was simply for “civilian use” and had made its way into American airspace by “accident.” “This was a PRC (People's Republic of China) surveillance balloon. This surveillance balloon purposely traversed the United States and Canada and we are confident it was seeking to monitor sensitive military sites,” the official said. “Its route over the United States near many potentially sensitive sites contradicts the PRC government explanation that it is a weather balloon.”  The official said a second balloon, spotted over Central and South America, was “another PRC surveillance balloon” and bore similar technical characteristics to the one that flew over the US. “Both balloons also carry surveillance equipment not usually associated with standard meteorological activities or civilian research,” the official said. “Collection pod equipment and solar panels located on the metal truss suspended below the balloon are a prominent feature of both balloons.”  The official said China is able to “actively maneuver the balloons to overfly specific locations,” pointing to the balloons’ flight patterns and the small motors and propellers seen in videos as evidence. The official said China had used these types of surveillance balloons for years and the devices had been spotted over five continents. The pushback comes after China’s Foreign Ministry expressed “dissatisfaction and protest” with the US decision to shoot down the balloon as it reached the Atlantic Ocean today. China once again claimed the balloon was “for civilian use and entered the US due to force majeure – it was completely an accident." A senior US defense official said Saturday there were three instances during the Trump administration when China briefly flew a surveillance balloon over the continental United States. The “PRC (People's Republic of China) government surveillance balloons transited the continental United States briefly at least three times during the prior administration and once that we know of at the beginning of this administration, but never for this duration of time,” the defense official said. Mark Esper, the former Secretary of Defense under President Donald Trump, told 'CNN This Morning’ on Friday that he was “surprised” by the Pentagon’s statement that similar incidents had happened during the Trump administration. “I don’t ever recall somebody coming into my office or reading anything that the Chinese had a surveillance balloon above the United States,” Esper said, adding that “I would remember that for sure." Esper served as Secretary of Defense under Trump from July 23, 2019, through November 9, 2020. He served as Acting Secretary of Defense from June 24, 2019, to July 15, 2019. When US President Joe Biden learned a suspected Chinese spy balloon was drifting through the stratosphere 60,000 feet above Montana, his first inclination was to take it down. By then, however, it was both too early and too late. After flying over swaths of sparsely populated land, it was now projected to keep drifting over American cities and towns. The debris from the balloon could endanger lives on the ground, his top military brass told him. The massive white orb, carrying aloft a payload the size of three coach buses, had already been floating in and out of American airspace for three days by the time Biden was briefed by his top general, according to two US officials. Its arrival had gone unnoticed by the public as it floated eastward over Alaska – where it was first detected by North American Aerospace Defense Command on January 28 – toward Canada. NORAD continued to track and assess the balloon’s path and activities, but military officials assigned little importance to the intrusion into American airspace, having often witnessed Chinese spy balloons slip into the skies above the United States. At the time, the balloon was not assessed to be an intelligence risk or physical threat, officials say. This time, however, the balloon kept going: high over Alaska, into Canada and back toward the US, attracting little attention from anyone looking up from the ground. “We’ve seen them and monitored them, briefed Congress on the capabilities they can bring to the table,” another US official told CNN. “But we’ve never seen something as brazen as this.” It would take seven days from when the balloon first entered US airspace before an F-22 fighter jet fired a heat-seeking missile into the balloon on the opposite end of the country, sending its equipment and machinery tumbling into the Atlantic Ocean. The balloon’s week-long American journey, from the remote Aleutian Islands to the Carolina coast, left a wake of shattered diplomacy, furious reprisals from Biden’s political rivals and a preview of a new era of escalating military strain between the world’s two largest economies. It’s also raised questions about why it wasn’t shot down sooner and what information, if any, it scooped up along its path. Read More: Taiwan said Sunday that the Chinese balloon incident "should not be tolerated by the civilized international community." "Such actions by the Chinese Communist Party government contravene international law, breach the airspace of other countries, and violate their sovereignty," Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said in a statement. It called on China's government to "immediately cease conduct of this kind that encroaches on other countries and causes regional instability." China – which insists the balloon was a civilian research vessel – has expressed its "strong dissatisfaction and protest" against Washington's decision to shoot down the balloon, saying it was "overreacting" and "seriously violating international practice." Taiwan has experience of balloons from China overflying its territory. In September 2021 and in February 2022, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said balloons that were believed to be used for “meteorological observations” flew over the self-ruled island. It is unclear if those balloons were the same type as the one shot down by US fighter jets on Saturday. The Colombian Air Force has confirmed that an object with "characteristics similar to a balloon" was detected in its airspace on February 3. The air force said in a statement Friday it is coordinating with other "countries and institutions" to establish the origin of the balloon, which has already left Colombia's airspace after being tracked by its National Defense System. The object "did not represent a threat to national security and defense, (or) to air safety," it said. The object was detected in the early hours of February 3 at above 55,000 feet, "in the northern sector of the country, moving at an average speed of 25 knots," the statement said. China has expressed its “strong dissatisfaction and protest” against the US’ shooting down of its balloon, saying Washington was “overreacting” and “seriously violating international practice,” in a statement from its foreign ministry. “China expresses its strong dissatisfaction and protest against the US's use of force to attack civilian unmanned aircraft. The Chinese side has repeatedly informed the US side after verification that the airship is for civilian use and entered the US due to force majeure – it was completely an accident,” reads the statement, which was published Sunday morning local time (Saturday evening in the US). “China clearly asked the US to handle it properly in a calm, professional and restrained manner. A spokesman for the US Department of Defense also stated that the balloon will not pose a military or personal threat to ground personnel,” the statement continued.  “China will resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of relevant companies, while reserving the right to make further necessary reaction,” the ministry said. What the US is saying: While Pentagon officials did say this week that the airship posed no "military or physical" threat to the US, they also flatly denied China's claim that the balloon served a civilian research purpose. Military leaders said they were confident the aircraft was used for espionage. Government agencies worked throughout the week to find the right place and time to intercept the suspected Chinese spy balloon, according to a government source familiar with Saturday's shoot-down.  Earlier in the week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was told by the Pentagon to prepare options for shutting down airspace.  Government officials were told last night that "decisions would be made this morning" on when to close down airspace. FAA officials were told to "be by the phone" early this morning and to be "ready to roll." Remains from the suspected Chinese spy balloon will be taken to an FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, for analysis by FBI experts and intelligence agencies, according to two people briefed on the matter.   Earlier this afternoon, a senior defense official said the Defense Department has launched a collaborative effort with the FBI and counterintelligence authorities to assist with “categorizing and assessing the platform itself.” Multiple US Navy and Coast Guard vessels are in the area where the suspected Chinese spy balloon went down and are securing a perimeter, according to a senior US military official said. The official told CNN that the Navy had anticipated having to recover debris in deeper water, but it landed at a depth of about 47 feet, which "will make it fairly easy." The official said "capable Navy divers" will go down as needed into the water to assist in the operation. There are also “unmanned vessels that can go down to get the structure and lift it back up on the recovery ship,” the official added. The official did not know how long it would take crews to recover any salvageable equipment from the downed aircraft but noted that recovery could take "a relatively short time." "I don't anticipate months and weeks," the official said. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the balloon shot down by the US over the Atlantic Ocean Saturday was being used by the Chinese government "to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States." President Joe Biden gave the Pentagon authorization on Wednesday to take down the surveillance balloon "as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path," Austin said in a statement after the military downed the aircraft Saturday. "The Department of Defense developed options to take down the balloon safely over our territorial waters, while closely monitoring its path and intelligence collection activities," Austin continued, adding that military leaders coordinated with the Canadian government on the mission. "Today’s deliberate and lawful action demonstrates that President Biden and his national security team will always put the safety and security of the American people first while responding effectively to the (People's Republic of China)’s unacceptable violation of our sovereignty," Austin said. The US military has downed the suspected Chinese spy balloon over the Atlantic Ocean, a US official says.  President Joe Biden approved shooting down the balloon, the same US official told CNN. Navy assets and Coast Guard assets are on standby if required for any possible recovery efforts, a defense official told CNN prior to the balloon being shot down. The balloon was first spotted in the sky over Montana earlier this week and traveled across the middle of the country, following weather patterns before it exited the continental United States on Saturday. Prior to the balloon being shot down, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a ground stop for airports in Wilmington, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The FAA also restricted airspace near Myrtle Beach “to support the Defense Department in a national security effort.” Top military officials had advised against shooting down the balloon while over the continental US because of the risk the debris could pose to civilians and property on the ground, but officials had maintained that all options remained on the table.   Earlier Saturday, Biden had told reporters in Syracuse, New York, that his administration was “gonna take care” of the balloon when asked by CNN if the US would shoot it down. He had been discussing options with military brass since first being briefed on the balloon Tuesday. On Friday, the Pentagon said the balloon did not pose a military or political threat. China's Foreign Ministry has said the balloon entered US airspace by accident. But the State Department has said the presence of the balloon over US territory was "a clear violation of our sovereignty as well as international law, and it is unacceptable that this has occurred." The discovery of the balloon prompted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone his highly anticipated diplomatic visit to China, saying the incident "created the conditions that undermine the purpose of the trip." CNN's Pete Muntean contributed reporting to this post.
READ MORE