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Inaugural ceremony to go forward without public attendance

Members will get one ticket for self, one guest

Construction workers have been building bleachers at the inaugural platform on the West Front of the Capitol.
Construction workers have been building bleachers at the inaugural platform on the West Front of the Capitol. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration will take place without broad public attendance, the congressional committee in charge of the planning announced Wednesday.

The changes, which are the latest adjustment to Capitol operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, mean there will not be a great dispute about crowd sizes.

Each member of the 117th Congress will receive a ticket for themselves and one guest, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies said. For a typical inauguration, the committee would provide about 200,000 tickets, distributed to congressional offices to give to constituents, often through lottery systems.

“The JCCIC, in consultation with diversified public health and medical experts and the Presidential Inaugural Committee, has determined that this global pandemic and the rise in COVID-19 cases warranted a difficult decision to limit attendance at the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies to a live audience that resembles a State of the Union,” JCCIC Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said in a statement.

Attendance and Capitol access for the State of the Union is traditionally highly restricted.

Biden’s victory became more official after Monday’s Electoral College vote. Biden had previously said he anticipated an inauguration that would more closely resemble this year’s Democratic National Convention, which was largely virtual.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee, a nongovernmental entity run by supporters of the president-elect, said Tuesday that its portion of the programming, including the parade, would be “reimagined.”

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“The pandemic is continuing to have a significant public health impact across the nation. Americans everywhere must do their part to slow the spread of the virus: wear masks, stay home, and limit gatherings,” PIC Chief Medical Advisor David Kessler said in a statement. “We are asking Americans to participate in inaugural events from home to protect themselves, their families, friends, and communities.”

Blunt and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the top Democrat on the congressional committee, both indicated there are efforts under way to provide enhanced video content of the event that would go beyond what is normally seen on television.

“While the pandemic has forced us to limit in-person attendance, it also brings opportunities to honor our democracy in innovative ways so that Americans across the country can experience Inauguration Day from home,” Klobuchar said in a statement.

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