He did not mention his predecessor by name during his speech on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, but declared that “democracy has prevailed.”
In one of her first official acts, Vice President Harris swore in her successor, Alex Padilla, along with Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, the Democrats who won the Georgia runoffs to give their party control of the Senate.
Trump also undid one of the only measures he had taken to “drain the swamp,” rescinding an executive order that limited former administration officials from lobbying the government or working for foreign countries.
On Wednesday, the Biden administration asked for the resignation of Peter Robb, the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, according to a White House official.
But Robb, a 2017 Trump appointee with 10 months left in his term, is refusing to heed the request, calling it “unprecedented since the nascence of the National Labor Relations Act” and saying that his removal “would set an unfortunate precedent,” according to Law360.
President Biden’s request, which was first reported by Bloomberg Law, does break with recent precedent of allowing NLRB general counsels to serve out their terms.
Robb, a former management lawyer who was involved in President Ronald Reagan’s infamous battle against the air traffic controllers union, has brought a pro-business approach to the agency, which oversees union elections and upholds workers’ rights to organize. His tenure has raised concerns among worker advocates, and major labor unions such as the Service Employees International Union have been pushing for his dismissal.
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White House press secretary holds first briefing, says Biden wants return of ‘truth and transparency’
White House press secretary Jen Psaki held her first press briefing Wednesday, telling reporters that Biden had instructed her to bring “truth and transparency” back to the briefing room.
After an administration in which the press secretary frequently echoed the president’s false claims, Psaki said she and the press will have disagreements “but we have a common goal, which is sharing accurate information with the American people.”
Taking questions for about 30 minutes, Psaki, a veteran of the Obama administration, said she’ll hold a briefing every weekday and that the White House will resume briefings with health officials during the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden’s first call to a foreign leader will be with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday, Psaki said, adding that the initial international calls will be with allies to “rebuild those relationships.”
Asked about Biden’s earlier comments that he wouldn’t discuss the note Trump left him until he spoke to his predecessor, Psaki said there are no plans for the two men to talk.
Amid a variety of foreign and domestic policy questions, there were several queries about Trump, including the pending Senate impeachment trial, but Psaki sought to turn the conversation away from the past and toward the future. Like her boss, she would not say whether Biden thought Trump needed to be held accountable for the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol.
“He is here today because he decided to run against him,” Psaki said. “But we’re focusing on moving forward. We’re focusing on addressing the issues facing the American public. And as you know, that means we’re focused on our covid package.”
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Jennifer Lopez worked the dance track ‘Let’s Get Loud’ into her inauguration medley. It actually made perfect sense.
Jennifer Lopez had already sung the famed folk song “This Land is Your Land” and was midway through “America the Beautiful” when she paused to deliver a patriotic message at Biden’s inauguration: “One nation, under God,” she said in Spanish. “Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Then Lopez started singing again, but it wasn’t either of the numbers she had previously announced. “Let’s get loud!” she belted as the United States Marine Band soared into a crescendo.
Lopez has been singing “Let’s Get Loud” for decades. The dance track, which first appeared on her 1999 debut studio album “On the 6,” has since become a signature song for the multihyphenate entertainer — despite the fact that it was actually written by Gloria Estefan.
Swearing in about 1,000 appointees at the White House, Biden told his staff that if he ever heard them disrespect someone else he’d terminate them “on the spot.”
“If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treating another colleague with disrespect, talking down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot. On the spot,” Biden said. “No ifs, ands or buts.”
The president, who replaces someone known for his acerbic tone and bullying demeanor, told them, “We have a chance to change things.”
Biden also told them that he’d be holding himself to high standards, in what could be interpreted as a dig at his predecessor, who frequently shifted blame to others.
“I’m going to make mistakes,” Biden said. “And when I make ‘em, I’ll acknowledge ‘em.”
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Pennsylvania Avenue restaurant stays open despite lack of crowds, creates curry to honor Harris
Immigrant Food, whose tiny storefront is a stone’s throw from the White House, opened in the fall of 2019 with a mission to celebrate immigrant cuisine and to elevate immigrant causes. It was a mission that became much more urgent during the Trump administration, said communications and engagement director Tea Ivanovic.
“For the last four years, there has been such horrible rhetoric and horrendous policy against immigrants,” Ivanovic said.
Ivanovic said the restaurant at 1701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW was determined to remain open this week, even though local leaders had urged people to stay away from the Mall, and even though its storefront was beyond many of the barriers and checkpoints.
It could not even get deliveries, so Ivanovic and the restaurant’s owner, Peter Schechter, loaded up bags and suitcases and hauled them through the streets of downtown on Monday, passing through three checkpoints. For a restaurant with dishes as diverse as the “Mumbai Mariachi Bowl” and the “West African Gumbo Bowl,” that’s a challenge.
There were not many people on Pennsylvania Avenue, a normally busy thoroughfare, on Wednesday. A black fence stretched across the street marking yet another security perimeter, and stern-faced Secret Service agents were turning away disappointed attendees.
But the restaurant, which drew in assorted members of the National Guard, Secret Service and D.C. police, still sold a number of “Madam VP’s Heritage Bowls.” The specialty is a dish of chicken curry, chickpeas, rice, plantains and pineapple intended to be an homage to Vice President Harris’s Jamaican and Indian roots.
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The scene as President Biden arrives at the White House
The Senate confirmed Avril Haines as the next director of national intelligence, making her the first member of Biden’s Cabinet to be installed by the chamber.
The 84-to-10 vote represented a strong bipartisan majority for the evenly-split Senate, which is expected to be more closely divided on some of Biden’s other national security nominees. The Senate has yet to consider the confirmations of secretary of state nominee Antony Blinken, homeland security secretary nominee Alejandro Mayorkas or defense secretary nominee Gen. Lloyd Austin, all of whom had confirmation hearings alongside Haines’s on Tuesday.
Haines’s confirmation faced a last-minute holdup from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who insisted on first getting an additional answer from Haines regarding her stance on disciplining CIA officials involved in management failures related to the incidents documented in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2013 torture report. Cotton lifted his objection early Wednesday evening, after receiving written assurance from Haines that she would focus on improving accountability at the CIA by looking broadly at systematic management issues, instead of focusing only on individuals’ mistakes.
Incoming Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) called Haines “extraordinarily qualified for the role.” Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), who will become the panel’s ranking Republican, also voted in favor of her confirmation.
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Anti-Trump banners fall, music rocks as the sun sets at Black Lives Matter Plaza
Activists who have for months railed against then-President Trump, his policies and his administration began to disassemble anti-Trump flags and “Trump/Pence Out Now” banners as night fell Wednesday over Black Lives Matter Plaza.
“He’s gone,” Nadine Seiler, the unofficial protector of the art and memorials that have filled the fence along Lafayette Square. “So we don’t need these anymore.”
A young woman folded a flag that bore Trump’s name in the center of the red universal “No” symbol as Seiler rearranged the banners that remained: rainbow flags, Black Lives Matter flags, “Biden for president” flags.
Television crews transmitted live broadcasts in European and Asian languages as joggers paused to mark the day with selfies outside police tape and barricades. A speaker poured American classics into the square as red, white and blue lights flicked on at the Laborers’ International Union of North America building and small clusters of people swayed to the music.
“Bye-bye, Miss American Pie,” crooned the sounds of Don McLean. “Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry. And them good ol’ boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye, singin', ‘This’ll be the day that I die. This’ll be the day that I die.’ ”
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Bipartisan group of senators to meet with Biden economic advisers
A bipartisan group of senators that helped break a stalemate and pass the last major coronavirus relief bill will be meeting in coming days with economic advisers to Biden.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who are leaders of the group now calling themselves the Common Sense Coalition, both publicly confirmed the planned meeting on Wednesday, following Biden’s inauguration. Manchin said the purpose would be to discuss coronavirus relief legislation. Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion package, including a new round of direct checks, as well as money for schools, testing and vaccinations.
Passing the package is his top priority for Congress, but a number of Republicans are balking at the price tag. Biden could try to pass it with only Democratic votes, but his advisers are hoping for bipartisan backing on his first major bill. They have made overtures to several Republicans in the bipartisan group, which also includes Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.).
Manchin said he hoped that Biden’s call for unity would resonate with senators of both parties. “I think deep down, everybody, Democrats and Republicans, feel that this is the right move at the right time,” Manchin said. “And it’ll take some a little bit longer than others but we’ll all come together.”
In first speech as Senate majority leader, Schumer says, ‘The threat to our democracy from the presidency itself has ended’
Delivering his first floor speech as Senate majority leader, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that he is “hopeful” after the inauguration of Biden and Harris but that the United States still faces a host of challenges.
He also vowed that the chamber will “do business differently” now that Democrats are in charge.
As Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced him as Senate majority leader for the first time, Schumer paused, then exhaled.
“I need to catch my breath,” he said. “So much is happening.”
Schumer then hailed the victories of Biden and Harris, welcomed the chamber’s three newest members — Warnock, Ossoff and Padilla — and delivered a defiant message to the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol two weeks ago.
“It takes more than a band of hooligans to bring our democracy down,” Schumer said. “Our democracy, though tried and tested, shall long endure. Let it be a message to those terrorists who desecrated this temple of democracy that they will never prevail.”
He noted that the new Congress begins its work “in the wake of violence and division, hatred and mistruth; in the shadow of disease and economic hardship, a warming planet, an unequal society.”
“Today the threat to our democracy from the presidency itself has ended, but the challenges we face as a nation remain,” he said.
Schumer also took some time to note his own barrier-breaking role as the first New York-born Senate majority leader. He described himself as “a kid from Brooklyn, the son of an exterminator and a housewife, descendants of victims of the Holocaust.”
“That I should be the leader of this new Senate majority is an awesome responsibility — awesome in the biblical sense,” he said, adding: “As the majority changes in the Senate, the Senate will do business differently. The Senate will address the challenges our country faces head-on and without delay, not with timid solutions, but with boldness and with courage.”
Speaking after Schumer, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in his first floor speech as Senate minority leader, congratulated Biden, Harris and the three new senators.
“I congratulate my friend from Delaware and look forward to working with him as our new president wherever possible,” McConnell said of Biden. “Our country deserves for both sides, both parties, to find common ground for the common good everywhere that we can and to disagree respectfully where we must.”
As Trump slips out of town, Biden repurposes old symbols for new life
In the end, the lack of crowds didn’t much matter. Careful orchestration, strategic camera angles and some deft artistic touches created the necessary sense of spectacle and occasion.
Biden spoke to a sea of some 200,000 small flags, symbolizing those who might have attended the inauguration of the nation’s 46th president, if it weren’t for the pandemic. A brisk January wind whipped them into motion, creating the illusion of human bustle and activity. The cameras stayed focused largely on the speakers and the speeches, including a young poet whose words tied together a teeming multitude of ideas and themes with the sinews of inner rhyme, alliteration and associative images.
Throughout the day, from the departure of the Trump family to the ceremonial arrival of political leaders and dignitaries to the West Terrace of the Capitol, it felt like a study in the ambivalence, slipperiness and resilience of our primal symbols of democracy. The 45th president’s farewell ceremony at Joint Base Andrews had a red carpet and 21-gun salute, but it felt forced and anticlimactic. For four years, the spectacle of moving the former president’s body always seemed full of weird drama — the golf carts, the brief limo ride during his covid-19 hospital stay, the use of military force to clear the way through a public park so he could carry a Bible a few hundred yards from the White House to a nearby church. And suddenly, he boarded Air Force One and it flew away and he was, for a few hours at least, entirely irrelevant.
We had been told, for weeks, that Trump’s decision not to greet the incoming president, sit and take tea, share a limo ride and watch his successor’s inauguration, was a shocking departure from protocol. In the end, it didn’t matter.
The Biden administration has asked for the resignation of Peter Robb, the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, according to a White House official.
Robb was a Trump appointee who still had 10 months left in his term. He’s a former management lawyer who was involved in President Ronald Reagan’s infamous battle against the air traffic controllers union. His pro-business approach to the independent agency, which oversees union elections and upholds workers’ rights to organize, has raised concerns among labor unions and other worker advocates.
Unions like the Service Employees International Union have been pushing for his dismissal. The move, which was first reported by Bloomberg Law, breaks with recent precedent of allowing NLRB general counsels to serve out their terms.
Virtual inauguration parade showcases talent, diversity from across the U.S.
The question as to how the nation’s distinct states, traditions and populations could share in celebrating the 59th inauguration without an in-person parade in Washington was answered with a made-for-TV virtual parade with recorded vignettes and musical performances at breakneck speed.
The program included a diversity of organizations and groups, each sharing a snippet in 15- and 20-second clips.
Members of the Youth Empowerment Project of Louisiana danced in neon and black jackets and tights while wheelchair basketball players from the Ryan Martin Foundation of Connecticut flung basketballs like the Globetrotters.
Equestrians of Indiana featured riders on 67 horses carrying American flags in Culver, Ind., and the Des Moines Isiserettes Drill and Drum Corps banged out patriotic tunes. The King BMX stunt team of Durham, N.C., soared through the air, jumping off halfpipes, while the Kilgore College Rangerettes of Texas kicked up their legs in red, white and blue outfits and white cowboy hats. The Native American Women’s Veterans Warriors stood in a forest and saluted to honor Native American women who have served in the Armed Forces, and the D’Evelyn High School Marching Band performed in an empty field outside Denver.
There were cameos by NBA stars like Chris Paul and social media stars like Nathan Apodaca, a.k.a. Doggface as he’s known online, who skateboarded into TikTok fame while slamming cranberry juice over the Fleetwood Mac song, “Dreams.”
The virtual parade included firefighters playing bagpipes and a dance medley set to “Dancing in the Streets.” Singer Andra Day sang “Rise Up” while young figure skater Kaitlyn Saunders rollerbladed on the Black Lives Matter road mural in Washington.
The parade closed with a video montage of President Biden, Vice President Harris and their family members climbing the steps to the White House.
Biden to reengage with World Health Organization, join global vaccine effort
The Biden administration is expected to reengage with the World Health Organization and opt into a multilateral effort to distribute vaccines around the world, reversing two decisions by the Trump administration that ripped the country away from public health diplomacy in the middle of a pandemic.
The covid-19 plan published on the White House website vows to “immediately restore our relationship with the World Health Organization, which — while not perfect — is essential to coordinating a global response during a pandemic.”
Secretary of State-designate Antony Blinken said in his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that the United States will participate in Covax, an international effort to source and distribute vaccines, particularly in low and middle-income countries.
By moving quickly on both issues, the incoming administration is signaling a return to a more cooperative approach to global health amid a crisis that has already claimed more than 2 million lives. But after months of WHO-bashing, threats and domestic chaos, America’s future role and influence remain an open question.