Biden, Harris inauguration: Final preparations underway

Trump is expected to issue some 100 pardons and commutations for release on Tuesday. Kamala Harris resigned from her senate seat ahead of Wednesday.

THEN-CANDIDATES Joe Biden and Kamala Harris campaign for president and vice president in Wilmington, Delaware, in August.  (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
THEN-CANDIDATES Joe Biden and Kamala Harris campaign for president and vice president in Wilmington, Delaware, in August.
WASHINGTON – The final preparations for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s inauguration are underway. Biden is expected to take the oath of office and become the 46 president of the US on Wednesday at local noontime.
Harris is set to become the 49th vice president. She will be the first woman to ever hold the position. Harris, who served as a California senator, officially resigned from the Senate on Monday ahead of Wednesday’s ceremony.
Harris penned an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle and addressed one of her most significant roles as vice president. As each party will hold 50 seats starting Wednesday, she could cast tie-breaking votes as the vice president.
“Since our nation’s founding, only 268 tie-breaking votes have been cast by a Vice President,” Harris wrote. “I intend to work tirelessly as your Vice President, including, if necessary, fulfilling this Constitutional duty.”
“At the same time, it is my hope that rather than come to the point of a tie, the Senate will instead find common ground and do the work of the American people,” she added.
Biden is expected to issue a series of executive orders on his first day in office. Among his priorities are rejoining the Paris climate accords, a mask mandate on federal property and a $1.9 trillion stimulus package. He also promised to ramp up vaccination efforts, administrating as many as 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days in office.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) announced “a nationwide COVID-19 memorial to honor the nearly 400,000 lives lost in the United States to this pandemic.”
“The memorial will feature the lighting around the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, and hundreds of towns, cities, tribes, landmarks, and communities all across the country have committed to joining the tribute in a national moment of unity at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 19,” the committee said in a statement. “Iconic buildings like the Empire State Building in New York, NY, to the Space Needle in Seattle, WA, will be illuminated.”
“In his first stop after arriving in Washington, DC, Biden – along with soon-to-be first lady Dr. Jill Biden, Harris, and Douglas Emhoff, Harris’ husband – will participate in an event to light the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool with 400 lights to honor lives lost to COVID-19,” the committee announced.
Downtown Washington has been blocked for vehicular and foot traffic, as thousands of troops are patrolling around the perimeter. Dozens of businesses, including coffee shops and financial institutions, were boarded up on Monday. At the perimeter’s inner part, crews installed razor wires on top of the existing 2.5-m. fence. All public access to the National Mall was blocked.
President Donald Trump is expected to leave the White House on Wednesday morning and not attend the inauguration. He will take off en route to his Palm Beach resort from Joint Base Andrews, where a send-off ceremony with supporters will be held, CNN reported.
Trump was opting not to issue a pardon for himself as he prepares an expansive list of more than 100 pardons and commutations for release on Tuesday, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.
White House advisers have said Trump has privately debated with advisers whether to take the extraordinary step of issuing a pardon for himself, but some administration officials have cautioned Trump against a self-pardon because it would make him look guilty.
Many scholars have said a self-pardon would be unconstitutional because it violates the basic principle that nobody should be the judge in his or her own case.
Others have argued that a self-pardon is constitutional because the pardon power is very broadly worded in the Constitution. Historical texts make clear that the nation’s 18th-century founders discussed self-pardons, but they opted not to include an explicit limitation on that power.
Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House of Representatives last week on charges of inciting the storming of the US Capitol on January 6 by a pro-Trump mob. His case is to face a Senate trial, and if convicted, he could be disqualified from seeking another run for the presidency in 2024.
So far, Trump does not plan to pardon himself and also does not plan to issue preemptive pardons for members of his family, another subject he has discussed privately with advisers, the source told Reuters.
Tens of thousands of security personnel from the National Guard and law-enforcement agencies descended in recent days upon Washington, DC, to bolster security ahead of Wednesday’s ceremony.
The image of Washington as a fortress has unsettled US pride over the traditionally peaceful transfer of power.
It was unclear how much the FBI warning and robust security presence around the country on Sunday led protesters to cancel plans.
The US Capitol complex was shut down for about an hour on Monday out of an abundance of caution after a small fire broke out nearby, underscoring security jitters days before the inauguration. The lockdown was lifted, and the fire nearby was contained, the Capitol Police said in a statement.
“Out of an abundance of caution the US Capitol complex was temporarily shut down. There is no threat to the public,” the US Secret Service said on Twitter.
“There were no injuries,” the Washington fire department said. “This accounts for smoke that many have seen.”
Participants in the rehearsal for Biden’s inauguration were held in the Capitol rotunda and other indoor areas, according to a Reuters witness.