All in the span of a Tuesday morning meeting, the bicameral congressional panel tasked with planning the 2021 presidential inauguration named its chairman, approved the event budget and set the location, while acknowledging challenges the coronavirus pandemic will pose come Jan. 20.
Sen. Roy Blunt, chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, noted that several people who would have been present at the meeting were not due to social distancing efforts, underscoring how different the 59th inaugural ceremony could be.
“We’re probably starting to look at accommodations we may or may not need to make,” said Blunt, a Missouri Republican and chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.
Blunt was joined by his fellow committee members: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer and Senate Rules and Administration ranking member Amy Klobuchar.
Congress has held the presidential inauguration at the Capitol since 1801, and the event has taken place at the West Front of the Capitol since 1981, Blunt said, adding that there could be adjustments based on the pandemic.
The committee approved a $1.5 million budget for the inauguration — money that had already been appropriated in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which was signed in December 2019.
Members also designated their staff representatives to meet on a more frequent basis to plan the inauguration.
The committee will reconvene this fall to strike the first nails on the inaugural platform, a tradition that sees members hammer nails into the platform in unison.
“This is a significant opportunity for us as a country to make a big statement to the rest of the world,” Blunt said.