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What you need to know about Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration

Workers hang banners for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris ahead of the inauguration on a press riser just outside the north gate at the White House on Thursday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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Joe Biden will begin his term as the 46th president on Jan. 20, when he is scheduled to be sworn into office on the steps of the U.S. Capitol amid an inauguration ceremony unlike any other in recent memory.

The coronavirus pandemic has already ensured the transition of executive power will be scaled down and subdued. Now, the Biden administration must also display strength and stability two weeks after a mob stormed the very place where Biden’s ceremony will take place.

The latest on Joe Biden's inauguration

What is the schedule for Wednesday’s events?

10:30 a.m.: The inaugural ceremonies begin on the West Front of the Capitol. Biden will be sworn into office and deliver an inaugural address.

After 2:00 p.m.: President Biden and Vice President Harris will visit Arlington National Cemetery with their spouses to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

After 3:00 p.m.: Biden will be escorted to the White House with every branch of the military represented. The escort will be followed by a “Parade Across America,” a virtual parade organized by Biden’s presidential inaugural committee.

8:30 p.m.: Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute prime-time program, including remarks from Biden and performances by Ant Clemons, John Legend, Demi Lovato and others.

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Where will Biden be sworn in?

Biden and Kamala D. Harris are slated to be sworn in during a ceremony on the West Front of the Capitol, according to the JCCIC.

Biden’s PIC said he will give an inaugural address from the platform that has been built there for the ceremony. Attendance, which will be limited, will include other elected officials.

Upward of 20,000 National Guard troops will be in Washington for Inauguration Day. The Capitol is surrounded by fencing and, in an unprecedented move, the National Park Service has decided to temporarily close the Mall for nearly a week.

Some events such as a military escort to the White House are expected to occur in a smaller and potentially distant form. Other celebratory components will be virtual, drawing inspiration from the Democratic National Convention’s online event. Here’s a look at what is known so far.

Will it be possible to get around downtown Washington?

It will be difficult, if not impossible, to travel through parts of Washington in the coming days. The Secret Service has designated red and green zones for restricted traffic.

Large parts of downtown are on lockdown until after the inauguration. Thirteen Metro stations near the Mall and the Capitol are closed. The Arlington Memorial Bridge and Rock Creek Parkway are shut down. Roads are closed and parking restrictions are in place around Capitol Hill, the Lincoln Memorial, Union Station, the Mall and the White House.

Read more about the travel restrictions around Washington here.

Will President Trump attend the inauguration?

Last week, President Trump said in a tweet that he will not attend the ceremony. Trump will become the first president to skip his successor’s inauguration since Andrew Johnson decided not to attend the ceremony for incoming President Ulysses S. Grant in 1869.

Trump has spent weeks using the power of his office to try to reverse the results, attacking the integrity of the vote with unfounded conspiracy theories. Traditionally, the outgoing president welcomes his successor to the White House on the morning of the inauguration. President Barack Obama hosted President-elect Donald Trump for tea in 2017 before they traveled together to the U.S. Capitol.

Vice President Pence said that he will attend the inauguration.

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Who else may attend the ceremony?

Former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have all said they will attend Biden’s inauguration, as well as first ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Former president Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalyn Carter will not be in Washington on Wednesday. This is the first presidential inauguration Carter, 96, has missed. A spokeswoman at The Carter Center in Atlanta said the Carters give their “best wishes.”

Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem at Biden’s inauguration and Jennifer Lopez will give a separate musical performance.

Will there be the traditional events and inaugural balls?

For the first time since 1949, there will be no inaugural balls. The Walter E. Washington Convention Center, which for years has hosted inaugural balls, is unavailable for use. It has been transformed into an emergency field hospital in preparation for a surge in coronavirus cases.

Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), chairman of Biden’s inaugural committee, has said that a more complete celebration of Biden’s presidency could occur July 4.

“Hopefully, things will be under control then,” he said on CNN.

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Will there be a parade?

The traditional parade down Pennsylvania Avenue will instead become a virtual “Parade Across America.” It is expected to be like the virtual roll call held at the Democratic National Convention in August.

Wednesday night, there will be a 90-minute prime-time program hosted by movie star Tom Hanks to celebrate the inauguration. The television special will feature Jon Bon Jovi, John Legend, Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake and Ant Clemons and will be broadcast live on ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, and MSNBC at 8:30 p.m. Eastern. The show will also be streamed on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Twitch, according to Biden’s PIC.

Can a member of the public attend the inauguration?

The JCCIC recently announced that attendance at the inauguration will be strictly limited because of the pandemic. Traditionally, the JCCIC makes 200,000 tickets available to members of Congress to hand out to constituents for the ceremony, but this year each member of Congress may attend with a single guest. The JCCIC said the size of the crowd will resemble that for a State of the Union.

However, commemorative ticket bundles and program packets will be made available to congressional offices to distribute to constituents following the ceremonies.

Leaders in the Washington region have urged all Americans to stay away from the nation’s capital on Jan. 20. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) ordered indoor restaurants and museums to remain closed until two days after Biden’s inauguration to help dissuade people from coming to the city.

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Who is organizing the ceremony?

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) is responsible for planning the swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol on Jan. 20. The theme of the swearing-in ceremony will be “Our Determined Democracy: Forging a More Perfect Union.”

The six-member committee is led by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and includes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Biden’s Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC), formally launched Nov. 30, is responsible for coordinating and funding the inauguration’s opening ceremonies, parades, galas and balls (if they exist this year). The PIC is led by Tony Allen, the president of Delaware State University, who served as a special assistant and speechwriter for Biden during four years of his career in the Senate.

Fritz Hahn and Luz Lazo contributed to this report.