Democrats and Republicans found themselves on Sunday morning pressed over the suspected Chinese spy balloon that was shot down off the South Carolina coast.
The balloon debacle comes ahead of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address where he's expected to lay out his administration's priorities for the remainder of his term and give America answers about what his political future holds.
“The operation took place without any damage or injury to any American lives or property,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on CNN’s State of the Union, defending the White House over the balloon.
Here's what else is going on in politics:
Buttigieg defends the White House over Chinese spy balloon: Buttigieg defended the Biden administration's downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast telling NBC's Meet the Press, "This thing was brought down in a safe manner."
Shot down sooner: While the administration shot down the balloon on Saturday, Rep, Mike Turner, R-Ohio, told NBC's "Meet That Press" that the interception should have taken place a lot earlier, "before it entered U.S. airspace."
Bye, Iowa: Democrats approved a plan Saturday to reorder their 2024 presidential primary calendar, displacing Iowa's caucus, which has traditionally served as the starting-gun for the presidential election and bumping up four other states.
New poll on Biden: 58% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents prefer another nominee over Biden, according to a poll from the Washington Post and ABC News.
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Biden aide: Republicans have no debt ceiling/spending cut plan of their own
During his Sunday show tour, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg repeated the president's pledge that he would not negotiate a necessary debt ceiling increase with Republicans – and added that the GOP hasn't proposed anything to negotiate about anyway.
House Republicans have said they will block a debt ceiling hike unless the Biden administrations cuts overall spending, but they have not offered a specific set of cuts.
"It's very hard to understand what exactly they're proposing to cut," Buttigieg said on ABC's This Week, adding that a refusal to act on the debt ceiling would lead to a government default on existing debt that would wreck the economy.
The debt ceiling standoff is expected to be discussed during Biden's State of the Union address on Tuesday.
– David Jackson
Schumer: Senate will get a classified briefing Feb 15 on the Chinese balloon
The full U.S. Senate will receive a classified briefing Feb. 15 on the Chinese surveillance balloon threat, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Sunday.
In announcing the briefing, Schumer praised the Biden administration for taking out the Chinese balloon and criticized Republicans for second-guessing.
"The bottom line here is that shooting down the balloon over water wasn’t just the safest option, but it was the one that maximized our intel gain," Schumer told reporters.
While Republicans said Biden waited too long to take out the balloon, Schumer said the critics "were breathless, political, and premature."
– David Jackson
'Too late:' McConnell attacks Biden over Chinese balloon
Mitch McConnell, the Senate's top Republican, weighed in on the Chinese balloon affair Sunday, saying it reflected habitual slowness by the Biden administration.
"As usual when it comes to national defense and foreign policy, the Biden Administration reacted at first too indecisively and then too late," McConnell said in a written statement. "We should not have let the People’s Republic of China make a mockery of our airspace."
McConnell, the Senate minority leader, said the incident may well be part of an upcoming budget debate with Biden over military spending: "Let’s hope his budget proposal this year is more decisive, serious, and strong than the embarrassment that just played out in our skies."
– David Jackson
House GOP opens investigation into Hunter Biden’s art
Hunter Biden’s paintings have drawn the eye of House Republicans, but not for the art.
The House Oversight and Accountability Committee wants to know who bought the art and how much they paid, after list prices initially ranged up to $500,000. The chair called the figures "exorbitant" for a "novice artist" and questioned whether it amounted to influence peddling over federal policy.
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., chair of the committee, wrote to George Berges, Hunter Biden’s art dealer, requesting a transcribed interview by Feb. 15.
“Despite being a novice artist, Hunter Biden received exorbitant amounts of money selling his artwork, the buyers’ identities remain unknown, and you appear to be the sole record keeper of these lucrative transactions,” Comer wrote.
– Bart Jansen
Gallagher, chair of House committee on China, attacks White House over balloon
Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., chair of the House select committee aimed at increasing the United State’s competitiveness with China, compared the suspected spy balloon to “a robber on your front porch.”
“Letting a Chinese surveillance balloon lazily drift over America is like seeing a robber on your front porch and inviting him in,” said Gallagher on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures.
Gallagher warned the balloon could signal future aggression from China, saying “It's time to push back before it's too late, before something far more dangerous than a balloon is flying over American territory.”
– Ken Tran
Republicans: Biden team should have shot down the Chinese balloon earlier
Congressional Republicans took to the Sunday shows to bash Biden over the China surveillance balloon, saying the entire incident reflected administration weakness toward an increasingly aggressive China.
While the administration shot down the balloon on Saturday, Rep, Mike Turner, R-Ohio, told NBC's "Meet That Press" that the interception should have taken place a lot earlier.
"This should have been taken down before it entered U.S. airspace when it was over Alaska," said Turner, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Administration officials said they waited until the balloon was over the ocean so as to minimize the risk to aircraft and people on the ground.
– David Jackson
Rubio: Balloon ‘not a coincidence’
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, criticized the Biden administration over the suspected Chinese spy balloon, saying the timing was “not a coincidence.”
“It’s not a coincidence this happens leading up to the State of the Union address, leading up to Blinken’s visit to China,” Rubio said on CNN’s State of the Union.
The Biden administration is scheduled to brief the “Gang of Eight” this week about the balloon. The group is comprised of Congress’ four party leaders and the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, which includes Rubio.
– Ken Tran
Ex-Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, crucial supporter of U.S. after 9/11, dies at 79
Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistan leader who provided crucial support to the U.S.-led "war on terror" following the 9/11 attacks, has died at 79, the Pakistan military announced Sunday.
No cause of death was revealed, but Musharraf, had been battling a rare disease, amyloidosis, and was being treated at a hospital in Dubai, Pakistani media reported.
Musharraf seized power in 1999 from then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif in a bloodless coup. Sharif had tried to remove Musharraf from his position as military leader – a year after Sharif had appointed him.
The Pakistan military issued a statement expressing "heartfelt condolences on the sad demise of General Pervez Musharraf. ... May Allah bless the departed soul and give strength to bereaved family."
– John Bacon
Buttigieg say Biden will use State of the Union to promote his economic policies; stays mum on 2024
Buttigieg went on the Sunday shows to promote President Biden's prime time State of the Union speech on Tuesday – and to avoid discussing Biden's plans to seek re-election in 2024.
"That's out of my lane," Buttigieg said on ABC's "This Week."
Buttigieg, who said it wouldn't be appropriate to discuss politics in his position as Transportation Secretary, said Biden would use the State of the Union to argue that his economic policies are working; the Cabinet member also made it clear that he hopes Biden will stay on the job after 2024.
"I'm humbled and honored to be part of his team," Buttigieg said.
– David Jackson
Buttigieg: The U.S. waited to shoot down the Chinese balloon until it drifted out over the ocean
Responding to Republican criticism, Buttigieg said Sunday the Biden administration waited several days to shoot down the Chinese surveillance balloon because it was over American land and air space.
Shooting the huge and heavily-equipped balloon over land would have been risky for aircraft and people on the ground, Buttigieg said on NBC's Meet The Press.
So the U.S. waited until it drifted out over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday.
The Federal Aviation Administration "worked closely with the Pentagon," Buttigieg said. "This thing was brought down in a safe manner, and flights are back to normal in the U.S."
– David Jackson
Ahead of State of the Union, Democratic voters aren't keen on Biden: poll
Democratic voters aren’t keen on Biden running for reelection in 2024, with 58% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents saying they would prefer another nominee rather than Biden, according to a poll released by the Washington Post and ABC News on Sunday.
The poll comes ahead of Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, where he is expected to also make the case for his 2024 campaign, which he has yet to formally announce.
On the Republican side, 49% of GOP voters and GOP-leaning independents would prefer if a candidate other than former President Donald Trump compared to the 44% that do support Trump. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
– Ken Tran
Is he running?: 5 big questions Joe Biden will answer in the State of the Union
Biden to answer America's questions in the State of the Union
The State of the Union address Biden is slated to deliver Tuesday night is likely to draw his biggest audience of the year and provide a blueprint for the rest of his presidency – from his stance toward the Republicans who have taken control of the House to the political question looming over his future.
Is he running for re-election?
He's not likely to directly answer that, of course. A formal announcement of his intensions isn't expected until later this month or next. But the balance he strikes between seeking common ground with the GOP and promoting Democratic causes that have limited prospects of passage will be a clue.
– Susan Page
Chinese spy balloon shot down
The United States on Saturday downed a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast after it traversed sensitive military sites across North America and became the latest flashpoint in tensions between Washington and Beijing.
An operation was underway in U.S. territorial waters to recover debris from the balloon, which had been flying at about 60,000 feet and estimated to be about the size of three school buses.
Television footage showed a small explosion, followed by the balloon descending toward the water.
– Associated Press
On Chinese spy balloon, the question of 'why'
Among the many lingering questions about the Chinese spy balloon drifting over the United States is why the balloon was in U.S. airspace – and why now.
“What are they signaling? And what do they hope to achieve?" said Kari Bingen, a former deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security. "Because this is something that you can't miss. They were going to get caught. That's what's so brazen about it."
In his first remarks about the balloon, which the Chinese maintain is a “civilian airship” used mostly for weather research that was blown off course, Biden projected confidence: "We’re gonna take care of it," he told reporters Saturday.
– Josh Meyer, Maureen Groppe, Tom Vanden Brook, Ella Lee
Democrats approve 2024 primary calendar
Democrats approved a plan Saturday to reorder their 2024 presidential primary calendar, displacing Iowa's caucus, which has traditionally served as the starting-gun for the presidential election.
The national party green-lit a calendar that makes South Carolina the initial contest, elevates Nevada to the second position alongside New Hampshire and welcomes Georgia and Michigan to the early primary window for the first time.
Democrats are seeking to amplify diverse voices earlier in their presidential selection process. The calendar Democrats approved on Saturday will only apply to 2024. They have vowed to revisit it before the 2028 election.
– Francesca Chambers
Contributing: Associated Press
'Four more years': Biden hints at 2024 as he rallies Democratic Party leaders in Philadelphia
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden's State of the Union, China spy balloon downed: recap