Politics

Leaders Kick Off Inauguration Construction at Capitol

Inauguration Day 2017 is officially on its way

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, center, reacts to the technique of New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, as, from left, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi participate in the First Nail Ceremony on the West Front of the Capitol on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 4:33 p.m.Speaker Paul D. Ryan couldn’t bear to look as Sen. Charles E. Schumer struggled to hammer down his nail during Wednesday’s First Nail ceremony on the West Front of the Capitol. 

Every four years, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies gathers to mark the ceremonial launch of the construction of the inaugural platform that will hold the yet-to-be-determined next president on Inauguration Day. Instead of cutting a ribbon or shoveling some dirt, members of the committee are each called on to pound a nail into the first plank of the platform.

They do so with varying success.

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, chairman of the committee and of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had no problems putting hammer to nail, plunging metal into wood.

Schumer, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took a little more time and employed much less accuracy. Schumer in particular hit the side of his nail and left it leaning before laying down his tool. Ryan, laughing along with people in the crowd, placed Schumer’s hammer in front, hiding the indignity

Ryan reacts to Schumer's technique. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Ryan reacts to Schumer's technique. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

After exchanging some pleasantries with workers standing behind them, who, as Blunt said, “will drive the nails that will matter,” Ryan and McCarthy went back to work on Schumer’s leaning nail, with the leader clawing the nail out and the speaker putting the hammer down on a replacement nail.

McCarthy, as other congressional leaders look on, removes Schumer's nail from the plank. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
McCarthy, as other congressional leaders look on, removes Schumer's nail from the plank. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Blunt said earlier that the inauguration of the new president on Jan. 20 is an important part of American culture because it signals a mature democracy that allows power to transition peacefully. “What it symbolizes matters all over the world,” he said.

The good-natured bipartisan cooperation that enabled all the "First Nails” to find their way into wood Wednesday could be just as important a symbol — especially during a week when Congress is struggling to agree on how to fund the government before leaving for the November elections.

The platform is expected to hold about 1,600 people on Inauguration Day — just under four months away — including past presidents, members of Congress, Cabinet members and nominees, Supreme Court justices and more.

Wednesday's event was also attended by Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers.

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