Joe Biden

Biden Names Prominent Allies as Co-Chairs of Inaugural Committee

Biden named Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., as the chairman for the Jan. 20 swearing-in

Workers prepare the platform stage on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol one day before the presidential inauguration
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is naming some of his most prominent allies to be the co-chairs for his upcoming Inauguration.

Biden named Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., as the chairman for the Jan. 20 swearing-in. Clyburn, the House Majority Whip, was arguably Biden’s most important proponent: it was Clyburn’s endorsement that helped swing the South Carolina primary and began Biden’s remarkable comeback in the Democratic field.

The Inaugural Committee also unveiled four co-chairs: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti, longtime ally Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester of Biden’s home state of Delaware and Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, who is set to leave the House to be a senior Biden adviser.

"Kamala and I are honored and grateful to these leaders for joining our inaugural committee as co-chairs and helping to organize a safe inauguration for all Americans," Biden said in a statement.

The pandemic is expected to keep the inauguration far smaller than previously.

A giant parade down Pennsylvania Avenue? Not likely.

Fancy balls? They may morph into virtual events.

The traditional luncheon where lawmakers offer best wishes to the new president? It might not include food this year.

What about the swearing-in itself? The inaugural platform on the Capitol's West Front is going up just like always, but it probably won't be as crowded.

“I think you're going to see something that's closer to what the convention was like than a typical inauguration," Biden said Friday, referring to the all-virtual event that marked his nomination last summer. “First and foremost, in my objective, is to keep America safe but still allow people to celebrate — to celebrate and see one another celebrate."

Biden's swearing-in itself will not be virtual. But guests should be prepared to socially distance and wear a mask. Lawmakers are also considering requiring a COVID-19 test for anyone on the platform near the president-elect, said Paige Waltz, a spokesperson for the joint congressional committee charged with overseeing the event.

The VIP platform can hold 1,600 people. Lawmakers also generally distribute tickets for positions nearby. While no hard decisions have been made, the committee is looking at cutting the numbers on both accounts.

“My guess is there will still be a platform ceremony," Biden said. “But I don't know exactly how it's all going to work out. The key is keeping people safe. I can't do a super version of the president's announcement in the Rose Garden."

That was an apparent reference to President Donald Trump's Rose Garden introduction of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, where hundreds of people crammed together, many without masks. It turned out to be a superspreader of the virus.

Biden’s play-it-safe approach to the coronavirus during his campaign offers clues about what to expect in terms of inaugural modifications.

He said Friday that a “gigantic inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue” was unlikely, although a big reviewing stand is being constructed in front of the White House.

No decisions have been made on whether the official inaugural balls should go forward. Some advocacy groups already are going virtual with their galas, including the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization.

“Our goal is to democratize the inauguration party experience by holding a virtual event integrating our 3 million-plus members and supporters into the day's events and breaking the traditional bubble of a Washington insider experience,” said Lucas Acosta, a spokesperson for the group.

The celebrity component of this year's celebration has yet to be determined, but one source close to the inauguration suggested looking for hints in the lineup of celebrities who campaigned for Biden, including Lady Gaga, John Legend and Jon Bon Jovi.

Even though plans are still taking shape, Biden's inaugural committee is already raising money for such events as balls and concerts. The law allows unlimited contributions to the committee, but Biden will limit contributions from individuals to $500,000 and from corporations to $1 million. The committee won't accept contributions from lobbyists or the fossil fuels industry.

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