Congressional leaders present Biden, Harris with flags flown during inauguration

Congressional leaders of both parties presented President Biden and Vice President Harris with the American flags that flew over the Capitol while they both took their oaths of office hours earlier.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) presented Harris with the flag that flew during her swearing-in as the nation’s first female, Black and Asian American vice president. 

“The Star-Spangled Banner is our greatest symbol of our endurance of the American idea. It flies over this building on triumphant days and on tragic ones, over all factions and all parties. And today this flag flew over our former colleague’s inauguration as the very first female vice president of the United States. So to our very distinguished former colleague, Madam Vice President, please accept this flag with the highest compliments and congratulations of the United States Senate,” McConnell said.

McConnell, standing feet away from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in the Capitol Rotunda, made a point of noting that both Harris and Biden are Senate alumni. 

“With all due respect to our distinguished Speaker and our colleagues from the House, I have to note not only did we just swear in a son and daughter of the Senate to these high offices, but indeed both these former senators skipped the House altogether,” McConnell said, drawing laughter from Harris and others.

Pelosi then presented Biden with the flag that was on display while he took his oath of office.

“This flag may reflect all that is said about your inauguration. America united. May it be a symbol of the hope, the healing and just all of the enthusiasm that you have for our country,” Pelosi said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — who backed Republicans’ efforts to challenge the Electoral College results on Jan. 6 before a mob in support of former President Trump stormed the Capitol to try to stop the proceedings — then presented Harris with a photo of her taking the oath of office. 

“I listened to your speech today. You talked about the tension and division. Our task as leaders is to bind this nation’s wounds and dedicate ourselves to the values of all Americans shared together,” McCarthy said, addressing Biden.

“Today, Vice President Harris made history and all of America should celebrate that. But we should also remember that this is not the end, but just the beginning. As leaders, we are judged not by our words, but by our actions,” McCarthy said. 

McCarthy has distanced himself from Trump since Jan. 6, saying last week as the House moved to pass an article of impeachment that the former president “bears responsibility” for the mob attack. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) then presented Biden with a photo of him taking his presidential oath, addressing him as “Mr. President.” 

“Joe,” Biden interjected.

“No, Joe. You’re Mr. President,” Hoyer replied.

In addition to the commemorative flags and photos, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the chairman of the joint committee overseeing the inauguration, presented the Bidens with a painting by African American artist Robert Seldon Duncanson called “Landscape with Rainbow” on loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. First lady Jill Biden had selected the painting.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar -Minn.), the lead Democrat on the inaugural committee, also presented commemorative crystal vases.

Typically there is a post-inauguration lunch with the newly sworn-in president and vice president, along with members of Congress and guests, in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall. But that lunch isn’t taking place this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which also led to the lack of a usual crowd on the National Mall.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Biden inauguration Donald Trump Inauguration Jill Biden Kevin McCarthy Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Roy Blunt Steny Hoyer

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