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Sen. Marco Rubio criticizes Biden's response to Chinese spy balloon and pushes for answers on unidentified objects

Sen. Rubio on spy balloon, objects shot down
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio on the Chinese spy balloon, unidentified objects 07:40

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is pushing for answers about the unidentified objects that have been shot down by the U.S. military in recent weeks. Rubio, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee and a senior member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, has strongly criticized President Joe Biden's lack of disclosure about the objects. 

"This is the first time in American history, 65 years since NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) was set up, that we've shot anything down, not to mention three things over three days last weekend," Rubio told "CBS Mornings on Thursday. "I do think that merits the president directly addressing why those three things were shot down and what we know up to this point."

"Nothing ... with regard to those three should be classified, because it's really not the type of thing you classify," he said. 

Chinese spy balloon traveled across the continental United States before being shot down off the coast of the Carolinas on Feb. 4. The following weekend, three unidentified objects were downed by the military in three days.

"The other three, we don't know what they are," Rubio said. "They don't know what they are. They haven't told anybody. They haven't told us. They may not know themselves and potentially may never know," he said.

While the objects may seem alarming, Rubio said their appearance in American airspace "not unprecedented" and are not "flying saucers." Instead, they are likely "small vehicles, operating in often restricted airspace." The thing that is unusual, Rubio said, is the decision to shoot them down. 

Senators receive classified briefing on airborne objects 05:36

While the objects should not be cause for alarm, Rubio said that the U.S. does not have systems in place to respond to these objects. He, along with Democratic Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, introduced an amendment in 2021 that created an office to establish a coordinated effort to report and respond to unidentified objects. According to Rubio, that office has seen "hundreds of cases" of airborne items, which were not met with the same response as the objects seen in the sky last week. 

"We don't do a good job of monitoring. We don't have a systemized way to respond. The difference between these three and hundreds of those cases is these three were shot down," Rubio said. "That's the biggest difference. Right now, if you're a small craft moving slowly, perhaps maneuvering in ways that we're not used to seeing at 20,000, 25,000, 30,000 feet, the U.S. doesn't have an established protocol for how to address it." 

Rubio also addressed gun violence in the United States after multiple mass shootings this week. There have been 71 mass shootings in the first month and a half of 2023. In the past, Rubio has shown willingness to support stricter gun legislation, especially after a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in his state of Florida. In 2022, though, he voted against a gun reform bill that he criticized on Thursday as legislation that "didn't protect people's fundamental rights." 

Rubio said he is in favor of "red flag" laws but with limitations on who can challenge a person's right to have a gun, but said that the problem is "really mass murder" and pre-existing laws that aren't enforced, referencing existing gun charges that had been filed against the gunman in the Michigan State University mass shooting

"Mass murder is the core issue. Why do people decide 'I'm going to kill a bunch of people, some of whom are strangers?' That's a real fundamental challenge," Rubio said. "The fundamental question goes back to this: Why are young people in America willing to murder people?" 

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