Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was sworn into office as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, pledging to heal a country dealing with massive crises and intense political division.
Mr. Biden took the oath of office shortly before noon on a family Bible and was sworn in by Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr.
Mr. Biden, 78, is the oldest U.S. president ever to be sworn into office.
“This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day,” Mr. Biden said in his inaugural address. “At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”
Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman and the first woman of color to occupy the office, was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
She used two Bibles: one that had belonged to Regina Shelton, who acted as something of a second mother to Ms. Harris and her sister Maya, and one that had belonged to former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Ms. Harris, 56, is now a heartbeat away from assuming the most powerful office in the world.
After the swearing-in, Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris were set to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery with former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris were to be escorted to the White House later, though much of the traditional inaugural parade events will be virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Later, Mr. Biden was to immediately take executive action on more than a dozen fronts.
Those actions include mandating mask-wearing on federal property, rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement and the World Health Organization, and repealing former President Trump’s ban on travel from some majority-Muslim countries.
Mr. Biden also released an immigration plan on Wednesday that includes a path to citizenship for most of the approximately 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. — a plan some congressional Republicans have already rejected.
Mr. Trump did not attend the inauguration, declining to offer Mr. Biden a courtesy nearly every U.S. president has provided to his successor. Mr. Biden said he agreed with the decision.
Mr. Biden takes office as the U.S. faces near-record daily coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
The U.S. crossed the 400,000 coronavirus-related death mark this week — easily the most out of any country in the world among official tallies.
Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris delivered remarks near the Lincoln Memorial on Tuesday to recognize the lives lost due to COVID-19.
The economy has also not yet fully recovered from the fallout of the virus. The U.S. economy shed 140,000 jobs in December — the first monthly decrease since April.
The U.S. Senate — soon to be controlled by Democrats — will also have to decide when to hold Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial.
The Democrat-led House voted to impeach Mr. Trump one week ago, accusing him of inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol as Congress was affirming the Electoral College results.
Mr. Biden has said those involved in the attack should be prosecuted, but he and his team have tried to avoid weighing in on the merits of impeachment.
The attack put all of Washington on edge, with thousands of National Guard members patrolling the city and more security on hand than any inauguration ceremony in recent memory.
Mr. Biden was ridiculed during the 2020 campaign by Mr. Trump and Republicans for eschewing the traditional campaign trail in favor of virtual events and fundraisers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Even some Democrats questioned the Biden team’s decision to forego traditional get-out-the-vote efforts like door-knocking due to public health concerns.
Mr. Biden had the last laugh, rewriting the electoral map by winning traditionally red states Arizona and Georgia en route to his 306-232 win over Mr. Trump in the Electoral College.
The more than 81 million votes Mr. Biden received in the popular vote is the most ever in U.S. history. Mr. Trump’s more than 74 million votes were good for the second-most ever.
Mr. Biden also won Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania — three traditionally blue states that Mr. Trump carried in 2016.
During the transition period, Mr. Biden and his team tried to keep their focus on his coming administration as Mr. Trump and his team came up virtually empty in dozens of legal challenges to the results.
After the Electoral College affirmed his win in December, Mr. Biden ripped Mr. Trump and Republicans for engaging in an unprecedented “assault on democracy” for seeking to invalidate the results in court.
In the 2020 Democratic presidential primary contest, Mr. Biden was left for dead by some pundits after a fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses and a fifth-place finish in the New Hampshire primary.
He then seized control of the nominating contest with a win in the South Carolina primary and a solid performance on Super Tuesday in early March.
Mr. Biden represented Delaware as a U.S. senator for more than three decades before serving as vice president from 2009-2017.
He first ran for president in 1988, but his campaign flamed out amid allegations that he plagiarized a speech from British politician Neil Kinnock.
He again sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 in a contest that ended up getting dominated by the budding rivalry between Mr. Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Obama later tapped Mr. Biden to be his running mate, and the two men served together for eight years.
Mr. Biden opted against seeking the Democratic nomination in 2016, a decision that was heavily influenced by his son Beau’s death from brain cancer in 2015.
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