The Missouri Republican is in charge of everything that happens on Capitol Hill on the day the president is inaugurated, from the swearing-in ceremony on the West Front to a luncheon in Statuary Hall to the new president’s departure. Hundreds of thousands of people typically attend the main ceremony to see the president-elect sworn in by a federal judge, usually the chief justice of the Supreme Court. But millions more tune in from home and around the world.
It’s the Capitol’s big moment every four years, and the JCCIC chairman — in this case, Blunt — gets to preside over it all. Not bad visibility for a senator from Missouri.
Besides the honor of running the ceremonies, Blunt also gets to make dozens of smaller decisions behind-the-scenes, from the music selection (remember the Beyonce lip-syncing scandal?) to Congress’s gift to the new president to security and ticketing to the menu for the luncheon. The responsibility is huge: if something goes wrong, the blame will fall on Blunt. His staffers have already spent months preparing for the logistical nightmare of that day.
But what if he loses his seat in November? That could pose a problem for the inauguration prep of the new president-elect, regardless of whether that’s Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
Blunt is favored to win reelection, but his race is competitive. Democrats have high hopes for Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander (that guy who can assemble an AR-15 blindfolded) to flip the seat. If Kander manages that, Democrats would have plenty to celebrate. Blunt, meanwhile, would lose his moment in the spotlight.
A spokesman for Blunt declined to comment on the possibility.
The question is: who would replace Blunt? There’s no official procedure in place.
In fact, the Senate hasn’t dealt with that conundrum in more than four decades. Looking back, it was in 1972 that JCCIC Chairman Everett Jordan (D-N.C.) lost his primary to Rep. Nick Galifianakis (D-N.C.) ahead of what was to be President Nixon’s re-inauguration in 1973. The JCCIC chairmanship passed to Howard Cannon (D-Nevada), but the committee also appointed a co-chair, Republican Sen. Marlow Cook (Ky.), who ultimately gave the call to order and welcome remarks at Nixon’s ceremony.
Here’s another possible scenario. Say Blunt keeps his seat but Democrats regain control of the Senate. In that case, he would keep his job as JCCIC chairman until the 2017 inauguration is over. Then, the next chairman of the Rules Committee — a Democrat — would take over for 2021.
Of course, the senator is somewhat less important to the process than the aides and coordinators doing the yeoman’s work.
And if he loses, it’s likely Blunt’s JCCIC team would stay in place through Jan. 20 — there would just be another senator signing off on the official decisions. Right now, we just don’t know who that will be.
The contingency plan — except maybe saving Blunt a seat — is not clear.