WASHINGTON — All of the former U.S. presidents attending President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration have arrived at the U.S. Capitol.
George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, were first to arrive at the complex on Wednesday morning, several hours before Biden’s swearing-in ceremony.
Barack and Michelle Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton followed shortly thereafter, with each couple arriving in separate motorcades.
The other living former president, 96-year-old Jimmy Carter, previously announced he would not attend Biden’s inauguration. Carter and his wife, 93-year-old Rosalynn Carter, have largely spent the coronavirus pandemic at their home in Plains, Georgia.
Carter had been the first former president to confirm that he was attending Donald Trump’s inaugural in 2017.
Trump and first lady Melania Trump departed Washington earlier Wednesday, skipping the Biden inaugural festivities and heading straight to their home in Florida. Trump is the first president since Andrew Johnson not to attend the inauguration of his successor.
Biden attends church
President-elect Joe Biden is attending church ahead of his inauguration, a traditional step taken ahead of the swearing-in ceremony.
Biden and incoming first lady Jill Biden on Wednesday are attending a service at Washington’s Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. With them are incoming Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff.
At Biden’s invitation, the first couple is joined by a bipartisan group of members of Congress, including all four top-ranking members of congressional leadership.
That includes both Senate leaders, Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Chuck Schumer, as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Many presidents have chosen St. John’s Episcopal Church, sometimes called “Church of the Presidents,” for the inaugural day service. Biden is the second Catholic U.S. president, and St. Matthew’s is the seat of the Catholic archbishop of Washington.
Biden spent Tuesday night at Blair House, a traditional move ahead of a president’s inauguration.
When President-elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office Wednesday, he is likely to place his hand on a familial artifact that has followed him throughout his 50-year political career: a hefty Bible, accented with a Celtic cross, that has been in his family since 1893.
While this possibility has yet to be confirmed by Biden’s inaugural committee, the Bible has been a staple at Biden’s past swearing-in ceremonies as a U.S. senator and as vice president. His son Beau Biden also used it when he was sworn in as the Delaware attorney general.
Biden, who will make history as the country’s second Catholic president, after John F. Kennedy, often invoked his faith during the 2020 presidential campaign as he courted voters with a promise to restore the “soul of America.”
In an interview last month with Stephen Colbert, Biden shared some history about the family heirloom.
“Every important date is in there,” Biden said. “For example, every time I’ve been sworn in for anything, the date is inscribed.”
What they’re wearing
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are showcasing American designers at their inauguration.
The president-elect is wearing a navy suit and navy overcoat by Ralph Lauren. Jill Biden is wearing an ocean-blue wool tweed coat and dress by American designer Alexandra O’Neill of the Markarian label.
Aides say Harris is wearing Christopher John Rogers and Sergio Hudson. Both are Black designers, Rogers from Louisiana and Hudson from South Carolina.
Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, wore a Ralph Lauren suit on Wednesday.
Two of the Biden administration’s top communications officials are describing the incoming president’s inaugural address as a forward-looking speech that will make little to no mention of his predecessor.
Communications director Kate Bedingfield told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Wednesday that President-elect Joe Biden’s address would “speak to the moment that we are in, but it will also lay out a vision for the future.”
Biden press secretary Jen Psaki tells CNN that Biden’s inaugural address is “definitely not a speech about Donald Trump” and she “wouldn’t expect” to hear about him in it.
Bedingfield says Biden had not had any contact with the outgoing president.
Asked why Biden had invited political opponents including House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy to join him at a Mass on Wednesday morning, Psaki said it “felt important to him personally to have members of both parties … and use that as an example to the American public.”
Bedingfield says Biden will sign 15 executive orders in some of his first moves as president.
Soldiers gather as sun rises
As the sun rose over Washington’s Freedom Plaza between the U.S. Capitol and the White House ahead of Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration, clusters of soldiers in full battle fatigues clustered inside metal barriers erected to restrict access to the procession route.
Some yellow placards on the barriers read “Biden-Harris 2021,” while others carried the seal of the presidency or inaugural insignias. American and District of Columbia flags flapped in high winds.
Traffic has been blocked off nearby in all directions. Revelers have been told to stay home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Most offices in the surrounding buildings are closed, many boarded up with plywood to prevent damage in case violence breaks out Wednesday.
But one tall office building in view of the procession route has been fitted with towering signs reading “Welcome, Mr. President” and “Welcome Madam Vice President,” for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
After being sworn in, Biden is set to inspect the readiness of military troops in a traditional “pass in review.”
The New York Times contributed to this report.
Source: Orange County Register