In contrast to President Donald Trump, whose administration began with a fight over the size of his inaugural crowds, President-elect Joe Biden says he plans a scaled-back event for safety’s sake during the pandemic.
The Democratic former vice president said he expects to be sworn in on 20 January on the platform already being constructed on the steps of the US Capitol, but wanted to avoid the crowds that typically gather on the National Mall and along Pennsylvania Avenue to view the ceremony and parade.
“My guess is there probably will not be a gigantic inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. But my guess is you’ll see a lot of virtual activity in states all across America, engaging even more people than before,” Biden said in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, where he is preparing his new administration.
Trump’s administration memorably began in January 2017 with then-spokesman Sean Spicer berating the news media for publishing photos that showed far smaller crowds than had gathered for President Barack Obama’s historic swearing in as the nation’s first Black president eight years earlier.
Biden said his staff is working with the same team that produced August’s largely online Democratic National Convention to plan a swearing-in that did not raise the risks of accelerating the spread of Covid-19, which has surged to a fresh record high in the United States.
“People want to celebrate,” said Biden. “People want to be able to say we’ve passed the baton. We’re moving on. Democracy has functioned.”
The ceremony typically begins with the outgoing president and the president-elect riding together from the White House to the Capitol. After the new president is sworn in, he rides back along Pennsylvania Avenue to assume his new duties while the former president departs, typically by helicopter.
Trump, who has refused to concede the election, has not said if he will attend the ceremony. Instead, according to a source familiar with the internal White House discussion, he is considering launching his bid to run again in 2024 that day.
The pandemic has killed more than 276,000 people in the United States and cases and hospitalisations are surging as the winter months approach.
Biden urges passing of support package
Biden said Friday’s “grim” jobs report shows the economic recovery is stalling, and urged the US Congress to pass a coronavirus relief bill immediately and follow up with “hundreds of billions of dollars” in more aid in January.
“If we don’t act now, the future will be very bleak. Americans need help and they need it now. And they need more to come early next year,” he said.
A government report showed the labour market slowing in November as the Covid-19 pandemic eclipsed its levels of the spring.
Biden said he would press for more relief once he is in office.
“Any package passed in the lame-duck session is not going to be enough overall. It’s critical but it’s just a start. Congress is going to need to act again in January,” Biden told reporters.
He said he expected Republicans to join Democrats in delivering more coronavirus relief because “they are going to find there is an overwhelming need”. He sidestepped questions about whether he has spoken to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell about negotiations.
The president-elect said he would not make the vaccines being developed for Covid-19 mandatory but hoped the public would develop confidence in them over time.