This week in politics: China spy balloon, Haley enters '24 race, Omar ditched from House committee

  • In Politics
  • 2023-02-04 10:00:08Z

The week ended with a surprising international development after U.S. military leaders confirmed a Chinese surveillance balloon is drifting over parts of the country.

Domestically, President Joe Biden hosted Speaker Kevin McCarthy at the White House to discuss a possible deal on the debt ceiling; experts warn delaying an increase in the debt limit could spell economic disaster.

Capitol Hill also had its own fireworks as Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar was ousted from a key panel by the new House Republican majority.

And even though it's just now February of 2023, the 2024 presidential contest continues to creep into the headlines as Republican Nikki Haley, a former Trump administration official, is expected to announce she's running in next year's race.

What happened this week in politics?

  • Biden, McCarthy met at the White House to discuss the coming legislative agenda, but mainly what to do about the debt limit that looms as top priority.

  • A Chinese surveillance balloon drifted over the northern U.S., which alarmed elected leaders when Pentagon officials said they considered shooting it down.

  • Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar was removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee by Republicans, igniting a nasty exchange over race and foreign policy.

  • Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is expected to enter the 2024 presidential contest, giving former President Donald Trump another primary foe.

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to wage a culture war as he possibly gears up for a presidential bid of his own by sparking changes to an Advanced Placement course on African American studies.

Can Biden, McCarthy make a debt deal?

President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., reportedly had a "frank and straightforward" talk about a number of topics, but neither side is showing their cards.

The speaker said, "There's an opportunity here to come to an agreement on both sides" on the debt limit, while Biden "made clear that... it is their shared duty not to allow an unprecedented and economically catastrophic default."

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif.  

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Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, however, didn't mince words Wednesday. He said that the central bank might not be able to prevent an economic catastrophe if the GOP-controlled House waits too long on raising the debt ceiling.

"There's only one way forward here, and that is for Congress to raise the debt ceiling so that the United States government can pay all of its obligations when due," Powell said.

Eye spy a Chinese surveillance balloon

Elected officials sounded the alarm when a Chinese spy balloon was caught hovering over parts of Montana, where the Pentagon has nuclear missile silos.

As one point U.S. military leaders had considered shooting it down but declined to do so over concerns that debris could injure residents on the ground or destroy property.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has postponed an imminent trip to China, with Biden officials saying the discovery of the balloon represents a "clear violation" of sovereignty and international law.

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Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah used the incident to underscore how the U.S. must confront China whether in the real world or online, where its growing social media influence is raising concerns.

"A big Chinese balloon in the sky and millions of Chinese TikTok balloons on our phones," he said in a tweet Friday. "Let's shut them all down."

The U.S. military has deployed F-22 fighter jets to observe the balloon, and defense officials say it is flying so high that it does not present a danger to civilian aircraft.

Omar: 'I am an American'

Since being elected to Congress, Democrat Ilhan Omar of Minnesota has been a lightning rod for conservatives, who say she is unfit to serve on the House Foreign Affairs Committee due to comments both Democrats and Republicans have called antisemitic.


The GOP-controlled House ousted her from the panel along a party line vote.

Read the whole story here: GOP removes Rep. Ilhan Omar from Foreign Affairs Committee, citing her comments on Israel

Omar and her allies in Congress didn't hold back, however, and cast the move as racist and xenophobic. She defended her love of the country in a floor speech, saying as refugee who survived the horrors of the Somali civil war she believes in the "American dream and the American possibility" embedded in the democratic process.

"I am an American," Omar said. "An American who was sent here by her constituents to represent them in Congress."

Haley to enter 2024 White House race

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is expected to announce she's running for president in 2024, according to multiple sources familiar with her plans.

She teased her plans in tweeted video saying, "It's time for a new generation to lead."

Former U.
Former U.  

She's expected to announce on Feb. 15.

Haley is the daughter of Indian immigrants who served in the Trump administration as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Up until now she had sent mixed messages about running. In April 2021, for example, she said: "I would not run if President Trump ran, and I would talk to him about it."

But Haley has also been critical of Trump, particularly after the failed insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021.

DeSantis v. Black history class

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis started off Black History Month by declaring that the College Board is revising its AP African American studies curriculum "for the entire nation" due to his "stand for education over identity politics."

Under the changes, topics such as the Black Lives Matter movement and reparations for slavery are no longer to be taught.

Florida Gov.
Florida Gov.  

The decision was spurred in party by Florida education officials, who rejected the new AP course last month, saying the class for high school students violated state law.

DeSantis and his allies cheered the move as a victory against "woke ideology," but it has ignited a fierce debate as Black studies educators have decried it as an attempt at censorship

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"Florida is a laboratory of fascism at this point," Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a Harvard Kennedy School professor of history, race and public policy, said in a recent interview.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: China spy balloon, Nikki Haley White House run: week in politics


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