Amid unprecedented security, Biden to be sworn in as 46th President

First Biden Cabinet nominees finally get Senate confirmation hearings

Joe Biden takes charge at 12 noon ET. Donald Trump leaves the White House with an impeachment trial in his future. Democrats add three new Senators today. Yes, the first inaugural I went to was Nixon’s. This is “Regular Order” for January 20, 2021.

BIDEN INAUGURAL. With thousands of National Guard troops providing security, Joe Biden is set to become America’s 46th President. Kamala Harris will make history, as she becomes the first female Vice President. While Vice President Mike Pence will attend, President Trump will not. That has not happened since Andrew Johnson refused to accompany Ulysses S. Grant to the Capitol in 1869.

  • UNLIKE ANY OTHER. The Biden swearing-in was already going to have a small crowd because of the Coronavirus outbreak. But then the Capitol attack occurred. The general public won’t be anywhere near the ceremony. The National Mall is closed. And Biden will take the oath just steps away from a Capitol entrance where police engaged in fierce battles with Trump supporters.

  • PRESS CORPS UPDATE. High fences. Thousands of National Guard troops. Barbed wire. Military checkpoints. It's a different sort of time to be a reporter on Capitol Hill. None of us have ever seen this level of security.

MCCONNELL HITS TRUMP. Back in session for the first time since the Capitol attack, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell directly blamed President Trump for the violence. "The mob was fed lies,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “They were provoked by the President and other powerful people.” While McConnell has denounced the attack, one thing should be noted: McConnell and most Republicans remained silent for weeks about Mr. Trump’s false charges of election fraud.

  • TRUMP TRIAL UPDATE. Democrats will definitely go ahead with a Senate trial after the inauguration. "Donald Trump should not be eligible to run for office ever again," soon-to-be Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) declared, noting one possible punishment. It’s not clear when a trial will begin.

  • FRAUD REMINDER. President Trump claimed fraud when he lost the Iowa Caucus. There wasn't any. He claimed fraud when he lost the popular vote in 2016. There wasn't any. The President set up an election fraud commission. It couldn't find fraud. He claimed fraud in Arizona and Florida in 2018. There wasn't any. And he made repeated false claims of election fraud in 2020. There is a pattern.

SENATE CHANGE. After the inauguration is over, Vice President Harris is expected to swear in three new Democratic Senators, which will give them the majority. One of the new Senators is Harris’ California replacement, Alex Padilla. The other two are Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia. The Senate convenes at 4:30 pm ET.

BIDEN AGENDA. One of the first big legislative plans from Joe Biden will be to send Congress an immigration reform bill. The plan would include a eight year pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the U.S. Don’t get too excited or angry - the effort has little chance of becoming law.

  • EXECUTIVE ORDERS. Most of the headlines in the first two weeks of the Biden Administration will not be from Congress. Instead, they will come from executive actions taken by the new President. But, it's also a reminder that while policies can switch quickly - they can also switch back fast, too.

SENATE POWERSHARING. The deal still has to be finalized, but the Senate will likely operate along the lines of how it did in early 2001 with a 50/50 split. All committees would have even numbers of Democrats and Republicans. Democrats would be in charge. Each side would get equal funding for committee staff. Bills could be advanced to the floor, even after being blocked in committee on a tie vote.

CONFIRMATION RUNDOWN. The Senate held five nomination hearings on Tuesday, after an unprecedented slowdown by Republicans.

  • DHS. This was the most heated hearing of the day. Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas vowed the Capitol attack 'will not happen again.' GOP Senators meanwhile attacked Mayorkas on immigration. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) said he will block any quick Senate vote to confirm the DHS Secretary.

  • INTEL. DNI nominee Avril Haines was blunt about intelligence work: "There is simply no place for politics, ever." Asked if she would appear for an annual Worldwide Threats hearing, Haines said yes. It was an ironic question from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), given that intel officials basically stopped testifying before Congress, because their answers often drew the public ire of President Trump.

  • TREASURY. There was no drama for Treasury Secretary designate Janet Yellen, who is well respected in both parties. Yellen told Senators more COVID relief is needed from Congress, which will be a top legislative priority for Democrats.

  • STATE. Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, pledged to reinvigorate the State Department, in another hearing with little drama. Blinken was pressed on how the new administration will face diplomatic challenges with China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. His Senate vote is expected next week.

  • DEFENSE. With strong bipartisan support on display at his Senate confirmation hearing, retired Gen. Lloyd Austin is a lock for confirmation. But because Austin needs a special waiver to take his post, he won’t be approved immediately. The House will vote Thursday afternoon on his exemption.

BIDEN CABINET. With only five hearings so far, not many of Biden’s Cabinet picks will get approved immediately after the Inauguration. On this date in 2001, the Senate approved seven nominees of President George W. Bush. In 2009, the Senate okayed seven nominees of President Barack Obama. In 2017, President Trump had two nominees confirmed after his swearing-in. Two may be Biden’s best result today.

COVID DEATHS. A day before President Trump’s departure, the nation hit 400,000 deaths from the Coronavirus.

IS THE THREAT REAL? This is the one question I keep getting about today’s Inauguration. All I can tell you is that the Capitol attack by Trump supporters was unlike anything we have ever seen. So, a dramatic security response is to be expected. There are very real concerns about others trying to cause more violence. This is not about foreign terrorists. This is about domestic terrorism. Home grown.

MUSE OF HISTORY. 52 years ago today, on January 20, 1969, I went to my first inauguration (yes, I was only 5 years old). Richard Nixon was sworn into office that day, back when the inaugurals were held on the East Front of the Capitol. 40 years ago today, I went to see Ronald Reagan. He had the first inaugural on the West Front of the Capitol, with the familiar million dollar view down the National Mall of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. (All that’s closed off today.)

UPCOMING LEGISLATIVE PROGRAM:

House meets next at 2 pm on Thursday.

Senate meets at 4:30 pm (after the Inauguration ceremonies).

President Trump leaves Washington in the morning.

President-Elect Biden will be sworn in at 12 noon.

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