Republicans criticize Biden over Chinese balloon

STORY: A day after a U.S. fighter jet shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon, recriminations were floating about what took so long.

Republican lawmakers criticized U.S. Democratic President Joe Biden for not taking down the alleged spy balloon sooner.

Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas told Fox News on Sunday, "we should have shot this balloon down over the . We should never have allowed it to transit the entire continental United States."

The suspicious flying object was spotted just over a week ago, entering U.S. airspace near Alaska. It floated over Canada and then back over American territory in Montana, then continuing to the Atlantic coast where it was brought down by an F-22 stealth fighter off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday.

Biden said on Saturday he issued an order on Wednesday to down the balloon after it crossed into Montana -- but the Pentagon recommended waiting until it could be done over open water to protect civilians from debris crashing to Earth from nearly twice the altitude of commercial air traffic.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Saturday the U.S. military was able to collect "valuable" intelligence by studying the balloon. And he said that three other Chinese surveillance balloons had transited the United States during Republican President Donald Trump's administration.

That claim prompted a furious denial from the former president.

Trump wrote on social media, "China had too much respect for 'TRUMP' for this to have happened, and it NEVER did."

Speaking on Fox News Channel's "Sunday Morning Futures" show, Trump's former director of national intelligence John Ratcliffe also denied prior balloon incidents.

China claims the balloon was an airship used for meteorological and scientific purposes, which strayed into U.S. airspace accidentally.

On Sunday Beijing condemned as an overreaction the American operation to blow it out of the sky.