Washington: Assuming a country plagued by deep political divisions and hit by the ever-changing coronavirus pandemic, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States today.
The 78-year-old Democrat will be the oldest US president in history at a scaled-back ceremony in Washington that has been largely stripped of its usual pomp and circumstance, due both to the coronavirus as well as security concerns following the January 6 assault on the US Capitol by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump.
With only a small number of attendees present, the Democrat will take the oath of office before US Chief Justice John Roberts just after noon, placing his hand on an heirloom Bible that has been in the Biden family for more than a century.
His running mate, Kamala Harris, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, will become the first Black person, first woman and first Asian American to serve as vice president after she is sworn in by US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s first Latina member.
The ceremony will unfold in front of a heavily fortified US Capitol, where a mob of Trump supporters stormed the building two weeks ago, enraged by his false claims that November’s election was stolen with millions of fraudulent votes. The violence prompted the Democratic-controlled US House of Representatives to impeach Trump last week for an unprecedented second time.
After the siege, thousands of National Guards were called into the city, killing five people and briefly forcing lawmakers to hide. The National Mall will have 200,000 flags and 56 lamp posts, covering people from all U.S. states and territories, rather than crowded supporters.
The consultants said that Biden had vowed to “restore the soul of the United States,” and he would call for American unity during the crisis in his inaugural speech.
Biden plans to reach an early indication of a plan in the political aisle. Biden has invited senior congressional leaders such as Kevin McCarthy, Republican Leader of the House of Representatives, and Mitch McConnell, Republican Leader of the Senate, to join his church on Wednesday morning.
In a break with more than a century and a half of political tradition, Trump plans to depart the White House ahead of the inauguration, declining to meet with his successor and affirm the peaceful transfer of power.
Vice President Mike Pence, former US Presidents George W Bush, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and both McCarthy and McConnell are all expected to attend Biden’s inauguration ceremony.
Trump, who has grown increasingly isolated in the waning days of his tenure, has still not formally conceded the November 3 election. He will hold a sendoff event at Joint Air Force Base Andrews in the morning, although top Republicans, including Pence, are not expected to attend.