Opening day: what you need to know

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Joseph R. Biden Jr. will become President of the United States at noon on January 20 in a scaled-down inauguration ceremony. While the key elements will remain traditional, many events will be scaled down and “redesigned” to better tailor the celebration to a nation battling the coronavirus. Here is a guide to the event.

While many events are virtual, Maju Varghese, the executive director of the inaugural presidential committee, said the goal was “an inclusive and accessible celebration that brings Americans together and unites our nation, especially during such a difficult time for our nation. country. “

Mr. Biden will be sworn in by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. on the Western Front of the Capitol sometime before noon. The new president is then expected to deliver his inaugural address and conduct a review of military troops, as tradition dictates.

But instead of a parade of enthusiastic spectators along Pennsylvania Avenue as the new president, vice president and their families make their way to the White House, there will be an official escort with representatives from all branches of the world. ‘army.

For distant viewers, the inaugural committee has planned what it calls a virtual parade across the country with music, poets and dancers “paying tribute to American heroes on the front lines of the pandemic.”

At 5:30 p.m. on January 19, the day before Mr. Biden’s oath, the committee will hold a lighting ceremony around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in remembrance of those in the United States who lost their lives in the coronavirus pandemic.

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For weeks, Washington has been bracing for the possibility of protesters. But the nation’s capital has been put on high alert after a violent crowd entered the Capitol building on Wednesday and forced lawmakers to halt the official tally of the Electoral College’s votes to assert Mr Biden’s victory.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has warned that extremists who support Mr. Trump could continue to wreak havoc and she extended the city’s public emergency until January 21.

The FBI and Secret Service stepped up security efforts around the inauguration. Experts have warned that some far-right extremist groups were already discussing an assault on inauguration day similar to the deadly attack on Capitol Hill.

The turmoil on inauguration day was not unprecedented: During Mr. Trump’s 2017 inauguration, crowds in Washington damaged storefronts, threw stones and bricks at police officers, and lit a limo in protest against the election of Mr. Trump. The day ended with more than 200 arrests.

President Trump announced on Friday that he would not attend Mr. Biden’s inauguration.

Mr Biden called the move “one of the few things he and I ever agreed on.”

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Yet it is a major break with the tradition for a president to skip the ceremonial heart of the country’s democracy: the peaceful transfer of power.

Vice President Mike Pence will be in attendance, an aide said on Saturday, after Mr Biden made it clear on Friday that he was welcome.

Only three presidents missed the swearing-in of their successor: John Adams in 1801, his son John Quincy Adams in 1829 and Andrew Johnson, a Democrat who missed the 1869 inauguration after being replaced in favor of a Republican, Ulysses S. Grant.

George W. Bush, has confirmed that he will travel to Washington for the day of the inauguration, with Laura Bush, the former first lady. Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are also expected, along with former First Ladies Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. Jimmy Carter, who at 96 is the oldest former president, has announced that he and his wife will not participate. This will be the first presidential inauguration Mr. Carter will miss since taking office.

Traditionally, the Congressional Joint Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies handed out hundreds of thousands of swearing-in ceremony tickets for members of Congress to invite voters, but this year tickets are not available to members of the public. Planners are urging people to stay at home and participate in virtual inaugural events to prevent large crowds who could easily spread the coronavirus.

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The events will be broadcast live by the inaugural presidential committee and the New York Times.

The 20th Amendment to the Constitution requires that the term of office of each elected president and vice-president begin at noon on January 20 of the year following the election. Every president has taken an oath and he cannot assume his functions without doing so.

Symbolically, it marks the peaceful transfer of power from the current president to the next. Inauguration day will be all the more important this year, as Mr. Biden ascends to the presidency at a time when political division has threatened the country’s democratic institutions and his predecessor has made extreme efforts to stay in office. power.

The inauguration is also a notable fundraising opportunity for the new president. Although traditional events like balls have been canceled, Mr. Biden’s inaugural committee is offering a special ‘VIP turnout’ to businesses and well-heeled individuals who can take the opportunity to curry favor with the new administration. .

Excess donations cannot be transferred to federal campaigns or party committees. Past inaugural committees have donated unspent funds to disaster relief charities as well as groups that decorate and maintain the White House and the Vice President’s residence.

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