FAQs: 2021 inauguration plans so far

The West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Friday, Aug. 7, 2020, in Washington. While much of Washington is twisted in knots over the election, there’s another contingent already busy trying to figure out how to stage an inauguration for the next president during a pandemic. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

With Joe Biden being projected as the president-elect, questions have emerged on the status of an inauguration taking place during a coronavirus pandemic.

Here is some information on what is known at this time:

  • Q: When is the inauguration?
  • The 59th inaugural ceremonies are scheduled for Jan. 20, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol.

  • Q: Who is in charge of the inauguration?
  • The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies has been responsible for the planning of the inauguration since 1901.

    Made up of a joint committee of House and Senate lawmakers, the JCCIC have been meeting since June, approving a budget of $1.5 million in July. They already established a theme for the ceremonies, titled, “Our Determined Democracy: Forging a More Perfect Union.”

    The JCCIC oversees the construction of the inaugural platform on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, the oath-taking ceremony and a luncheon for the president and vice president.

    The president-elect will create a committee of their own to raise money for events away from the U.S. Capitol, such as the inaugural ball.

  • Q: When does construction for the inauguration start?
  • The platform is currently being built and the National Park Service has closed off portions of Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House, and Pennsylvania Avenue to start construction and set up for the parade.

    The Associated Press reported that the Nuclear Security Administration, part of the Energy Department, has begun conducting low-altitude helicopter flights around the capital during the daytime with “state-of-the art radiation-sensing technology” as part of the public safety protocols.

  • Q: Will there still be an inauguration during the pandemic?
  • As of now, an Inauguration Day event is being set up and could be scaled back, if need be, based on COVID precautions. Because the event happens on federal property, it does not need to follow the District’s coronavirus restriction policies.

    Inaugural ceremonies have been held in nine other locations outside of the U.S. Capitol, according to the JCCIC. While some inaugurations have been held indoors due to bad weather, there has not been a digital-only ceremony.

  • Q: Are there any protests planned?
  • There are five First Amendment permits, as of Nov. 10, being processed by the National Park Service that request access to federal land around Inauguration Day.

    So far, per WTOP’s Megan Cloherty:

    Among them, a demonstration “demanding urgent action to save the environment and end war” by the Answer Coalition; a 300-person protest by organizers of Roar for Trump; and a 5,000-person request for a “free speech demonstration against the inauguration” by the DC Action Lab.

    The group Women for a Great America is requesting access to the White House sidewalk and Lafayette Park for a 250-person event, where they plan to “pray for President Trump.”

    And the Memorial Foundation is planning a wreath-laying ceremony for 250 people at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Though associated with a separate holiday, it is within the same time frame and near the National Mall, where crowds are expected.

  • Q: How can I get tickets?
  • Normally, tickets for the ceremonies are requested through a state’s U.S. Senator or Congressional member. Tickets are limited per household and each representative gives out their allotment in a different manner.

    For example, Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Virginia U.S. Rep. A. Donald McEachin have online forms residents can use to sign up for tickets.

    People can find the contact information for their state’s representatives on the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives websites.

WTOP’s Megan Cloherty and The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

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