ST. PAUL -- When the nation inaugurates Joe Biden as its 46th President on Wednesday at noon, a Minnesotan will be joining him on stage: U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
The Minnesota Democrat, as the ranking member (soon-to-be chair) of the Senate Rules committee, is tasked with planning the ceremony, alongside a few other congressional leaders. She will also be one of few people speaking at the Jan. 20 ceremony, she told Forum News Service in an interview.
“For me, this ceremony -- and what I’m going to be focused on in my remarks -- is that we can’t take our democracy for granted,” Klobuchar said. “It's on us, not just the two leaders who we are inaugurating, to carry on and to move forward for our country. This is a moment where the country can, our democracy can dust itself off and get to work.”
Before the ceremony, Klobuchar will begin her day at a church service with the Bidens and a small group of others before heading to the U.S. Capitol. Afterward, she will take part in a tradition of gifting two vases to the Biden's, which have been passed on to the first families since former President George H. W. Bush's term.
"They're 32 pounds each, so we’re hoping I don’t drop them," she quipped.
Just two weeks earlier on Jan. 6, extremist supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol building where Biden will take his oath of office, hoping to stop Congress from certifying the election. Klobuchar said there is still spray paint on some of the columns, and most of the building’s shattered windows have been repaired.
After the riot, Klobuchar and her congressional colleagues made a point of returning to the floor the same night to finish certifying the votes, signaling that democracy perseveres. She said she hopes Wednesday’s ceremony symbolizes “a renewed commitment to our democracy,” and an “awakening to our responsibilities as Americans.”
In addition to Klobuchar, some but not all of Congress will be attending the inauguration, including Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence will attend, along with past presidents. Trump himself will not attend, which Klobuchar said is “his decision.”
Klobuchar said she and U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, began making arrangements for the ceremony before they knew who the winner would be so they planned it in a “bipartisan way.” They chose to limit attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic, breaking from the tradition of typically inviting members of the public from all over the country.
“Usually I invite hundreds of people from our state. (...) It’s a people’s inauguration in America,” she said. “It was a hard decision, but it was the right decision, considering the pandemic.”
Instead, they’ve installed what they’ve dubbed the “field of flags” -- over 100,000 flags spread across the field to symbolize those who can’t attend in person, which Klobuchar said is a “reminder of the somber moment we’re in, but also the majesty of our country.”
“That was our goal, Sen. Blunt’s and my goal was, despite the pandemic, despite the insurrection (...) we had to make sure that the ceremony went on and that it respected our democracy and I think this does it.”