President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration will include a “virtual parade across America” consistent with crowd limits during the coronavirus era.
Following the swearing-in ceremony on January 20 on the west front of the US Capitol, Biden and wife Jill will join vice president-elect Kamala Harris and her husband in a socially distanced Pass in Review on the Capitol’s opposite front side.
Those are military traditions where Biden will review the readiness of troops.
He will also receive a traditional presidential escort with representatives from every military branch from 15th Street in Washington to the White House.
That, the Presidential Inaugural Committee says, will be socially distanced too, while “providing the American people and world with historic images of the president-elect proceeding to the White House without attracting large crowds”.
Workers in recent days began dismantling an inaugural parade reviewing stand in front of the White House as Biden’s transition team continues to prepare for festivities that will be mostly virtual.
Accordingly, organisers also said on Sunday they would hold a virtual parade nationwide to “celebrate America’s heroes, highlight Americans from all walks of life in different states and regions, and reflect on the diversity, heritage and resilience of the country as we begin a new American era”.
The parade event will be televised and feature “diverse, dynamic” performances in communities across the country, the inaugural committee promised.
Participants will be announced in coming weeks.
“We are excited about the possibilities and opportunities this moment presents to allow all Americans to participate in our country’s sacred inaugural traditions,” said Presidential Inaugural Committee Executive Director Maju Varghese.
Pelosi narrowly re-elected speaker
Nancy Pelosi has been narrowly re-elected Speaker of the US House of Representatives, with a new Congress taking office amid political uncertainty.
The House voted 216-209 to reinstate Pelosi on Sunday, after Democrats lost 11 seats in the November elections to command a narrower 222-212 majority.
Five Democrats chose not to support her – two voted for candidates not running, while three others simply voted “present”.
The Senate remains Republican run ahead of twin elections in Georgia on Tuesday, giving its members a platform to again air President Donald Trump’s baseless claims his loss to Joe Biden was fraudulent.
Multiple state and federal reviews have found no evidence to support the claims but Republican senators and House members plan to challenge the election result when Congress certifies it on Wednesday.
A push led by Senator Ted Cruz for an emergency 10-day audit of results in contested battleground states drew criticism on Sunday from staunch Trump ally Lindsey Graham.
“It appears to be more of a political dodge than an effective remedy,” he said. “I will listen closely but they have a high bar to clear.”
The narrower balance of power in both chambers could also encourage moderates from each party to flex their muscles, especially after Trump leaves the White House on January 20 and Biden takes office.
But leaders in both the House and Senate tried to sound optimistic despite mounting challenges.
“From political division to a deadly pandemic to adversaries around the world, the hurdles before us are many and serious,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor.
“But there is also plenty of reason for hope,” the Kentucky Republican added, citing the ongoing rollout of coronavirus vaccine.
“I’d say 2021 looks bright already.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, also said he hoped the new Congress would “turn the page” on partisan division “and begin a new chapter of co-operation.”
A smaller Democratic majority and the still-raging coronavirus pandemic made re-election as Speaker trickier for Pelosi, the only woman ever to hold job.
The smaller caucus meant less room for dissident Democrats to vote against her without risking a possible win for Republican Kevin McCarthy, who opposed her.
“It’s not personal. It’s not malicious. It just represents a feeling in my district,” Democratic Representative Elissa Slotkin of Michigan told reporters before voting “present”.
“We need a different crop (of leaders) that represents a broader swath of the country,” Slotkin said.
In the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence swore in 32 senators on Sunday, administering the oath of office in pairs due to COVID-19 restrictions.
A Republican win of one or both Georgia Senate seats up for election on Tuesday would cement the Republican majority led by McConnell.
Twin Democratic wins in Georgia would produce a 50-50 Senate, where Democratic Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would hold the tie-breaking.