Joe Biden is expected to be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Jan. 20 at an outdoor inauguration ceremony, although the coronavirus pandemic might cause the plans to be scaled back.

“We are moving forward, anticipating an outside, full-scale inauguration,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said Sunday on the ABC News program “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”

But Blunt, who chairs the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, was still hedging about which candidate he expected to be placing his hand upon a Bible that day.

“This is a great time for us to show how a true democracy works,” Blunt said, adding: “I’m confident we are going to see that. I expect to see both Vice President Biden and President Trump on the stage on Inaugural Day, and that will be a powerful message, no matter which one of them is sworn in.”

Before Biden takes the oath of office, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, the first woman elected as vice president, will be sworn in that day from the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. They have not yet said whom they prefer to administer their oaths.

Here are more details about the state of inauguration planning.

Who plans the ceremony?

Since 1901, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies has organized the inaugural ceremonies of the president-elect and the vice president-elect.


The current six-member committee began planning for the 2021 inauguration in June, when the group selected a site and approved a $1.5 million budget. The members, besides Blunt, are the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; and the majority and minority leaders of the House, Steny Hoyer and Kevin McCarthy.

The theme for the nation’s 59th inauguration will be “Our Determined Democracy: Forging a More Perfect Union,” Blunt said.

Who is expected to attend?

U.S. officials and other dignitaries are expected to gather at the inaugural platform, which is over 10,000 square feet and holds more than 1,600 people for the swearing-in ceremonies.

Traditionally, the group that is seated on the platform includes the president and vice president and their families, the president-elect and vice president-elect and their families, the chief justice and associate justices of the Supreme Court, former presidents, the diplomatic corps, Cabinet members and nominees, members of Congress, governors, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other guests, according to the joint committee.

In 2017, when Donald Trump was sworn in, his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, were in attendance, as were Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama, and his wife, Michelle Obama, and former Presidents George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter. President George H.W. Bush was unable to attend because of poor health; he died in 2018.

How long is the inaugural address?

Every president since George Washington has delivered the inaugural address, which has ranged from 8,445 words to 135 words, according to the committee. During his inaugural address on Jan. 20, 2017, Trump spoke for 16 minutes before hundreds of thousands of followers and spectators. In his speech, he vowed to shatter the established order and reverse a national decline that he called “this American carnage.”


The next day, Trump disputed independent estimates of the attendance, saying that up to 1.5 million people had been there, a claim disproved by photographs. Visual estimates of the size of the crowd put it at one-third the size of Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.

Has the event always been in January?

No. The ratification of the 20th Amendment in 1933 fixed Jan. 20 as the date. Before that, inaugurations traditionally took place on March 4. Through history, the ceremony has taken place on other dates and in 10 different locations.

Washington, the nation’s first president, was sworn in on April 30, 1789, at Federal Hall in New York City.

Andrew Jackson’s first inauguration, on March 4, 1829, was the first ceremony to be conducted on the East Portico of the Capitol. The crowds of attendees were so excited that they rushed toward the new president, who then retreated into the Capitol and rode a horse to the White House.

On Nov. 22, 1963, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson swiftly took the oath of office in a conference room aboard Air Force One in Dallas after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Who will perform at the celebration?

It has not yet been announced who will perform at the inauguration. Certain programming elements are decided by the committee, and others are decided by the president-elect.

At Trump’s inauguration, performers included the Missouri State University Chorale, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Jackie Evancho, a teenage soprano who closed out the ceremony by singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

For Obama’s second inauguration, in 2013, performers included the first “American Idol” winner, Kelly Clarkson, who sang “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” Poet Richard Blanco read his inaugural poem, “One Today.”