Welcome to this week’s D.C. Memo. Two weeks after it was trashed by rioters, the U.S. Capitol provided a serene and majestic backdrop for the inauguration of a new president, with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar playing a role in the ceremony. We’ll check in with what Minnesota’s delegation thought of the event and note some pushback Seventh District freshman Rep. Michelle Fischbach is getting for her continued backing of unsubstantiated election fraud claims. Here we go:
Without a hitch
Two weeks to the day after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden went smoothly and peacefully, amid heightened security.
The Associated Press reported that troops in riot gear lined the streets of Washington while armored vehicles and concrete barriers blocked the empty streets around the Capitol. Biden was safely sworn in behind miles of fencing. The wire service said that officials were also monitoring members of far-right extremist and militia groups, increasingly concerned about the possibility such groups could stream into Washington and spark violent confrontations, according to a law enforcement official who talked to the AP.
There were a few scattered arrests, but no serious disruptions in the city during the inauguration ceremony.
Master of ceremonies
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar played the role of host at the inauguration, introducing the Supreme Court justices who delivered the oaths of office to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and introducing Biden before his address. As the ranking Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee — and soon-to-be chair — Klobuchar was the lead Senate Democrat on the congressional planning committee for the inaugural ceremonies.
Klobuchar called the inauguration “the culmination of 244 years of democracy” as she opened the festivities. Speaking on the site of the riot, she said: “This is the day when our democracy picks itself up, brushes off the dust, and does what America always does: goes forward as a nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
In introducing Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Klobuchar said, “What you are about to be part of, America, is a historic moment. A first,” noting that Sotomayor was the first Latina on the high court, Harris is the first woman, and the first person with both African-American and Asian-American roots, to become vice president.
In introducing Biden, she said: “It is my great privilege and high honor to be the first person to officially introduce the 46th president of the United States, Joseph R. Biden, Jr.”
You can watch her full speech on this Pioneer Press link.
A day before the inaugural, Klobuchar talked to the Star Tribune’s Patrick Condon about how she hoped to use her time on the national stage at the inaugural to remind Americans that democracy cannot be taken for granted. “It’s on all of us to cherish it and to pass it on to the next generation,” she said. “It is on all of us to take up its torch.”
Klobuchar and her husband, John Bessler, were also among a small group that attended an early-morning church service with Biden and Harris and their spouses.
For Minnesota delegation, a mix of concern and awe
Most of Minnesota’s congressional delegation was on hand for the inaugural, though a few had concerns about their safety, the Star Tribune reported.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips wore a bullet-resistant vest as he headed to the inauguration but decided to leave it in the car. As for the heavy security surrounding the ceremony, Phillips said it brought mixed feelings. “On the one hand, you see Washington transformed from what’s generally been an open, accessible place into a fortress — a military base, really,” he said. “You see the guns, and the fencing — it was disconcerting, off-putting. But it does make you feel safer when you’re inside it.”
Fellow Democratic U.S. Rep. Angie Craig also felt the need for heightened precautions as she and her wife prepared to watch Biden’s swearing-in from the section designated for members of Congress. “One of our sons was very concerned” for their safety, she told the newspaper.
But they still took in the event.
“It was beautiful. When Joe Biden started speaking, the sun came out. But I’ll skip the metaphors for now,” Craig told the paper.
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, a Democrat and the senior Minnesotan in Congress, watched the proceedings from her home in St. Paul. “They will work to make our country and our democracy stronger,” she said of Biden and Harris in a prepared statement.
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar praised Biden’s inaugural address, saying he “hit all the marks.”
“It was realistic, it was uplifting and healing, it was presidential, it spoke not just of unity but of how we can achieve that unity,” Omar, who supported Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination, told the Star Tribune. “I think he helped ground us in the reality of this mess we’re in, and of how much we’re going to have to rely on each other to clean it up.”
U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, also a Democrat, told the Pioneer Press’s Dave Orrick that she experienced a range of feelings.
“I had a crazy night of sleep,” she said. “I woke up this morning feeling optimistic and excited and worried and grateful. Many of us were thinking about how stunning it was that exactly two weeks ago we were witnessing a mob invading the Capitol and threatening to kill people.”
Republican U.S. Reps. Pete Stauber, Jim Hagedorn and Michelle Fischbach, meanwhile, all attended the event, as well.
Emmer tweeted: “Today, I attended the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States and am hopeful that we will find the common ground needed to strengthen the future of our nation.”
Also on Twitter, Stauber wrote: “I wish the incoming President the best of luck and I stand ready to find common ground with the Biden Administration when possible in order to move this country forward.”
Fischbach’s precarious path
Fischbach, newly elected in Minnesota’s 7th District, already faces a challenge as one of a shrinking number of Republicans in Congress who are sticking by former President Trump and his claims of voter fraud, the Star Tribune’s Jim Spencer reported.
Fischbach voted to not certify the Electoral College votes of two states just hours after the mob attacked the Capitol. “This election was shrouded in allegations of irregularities and fraud too voluminous to ignore,” Fischbach said in a prepared statement issued before the attack, calling for a “proper investigation” of unproven fraud claims that have been dismissed by dozens of federal courts.
Fischbach and other members of Congress claiming voter fraud have faced pushback, Spencer reported. Some major businesses cut them off from political contributions saying they, like the rioters, attacked democracy. Some groups called for her removal from Congress.
Dean Urdahl, a veteran Republican state representative from Fischbach’s district, said her early votes and positioning are in keeping with the beliefs of the voters who elected her. Trump got 64% of the vote in her district. “The Seventh District went solidly for Trump,” Urdahl told Spencer. “There are still people in the district with a strong belief that something was wrong. I’m sure she was thinking about that” when she voted to overturn the election.
What I’m reading
“Among the Insurrectionists,” by Luke Mogelson of the New Yorker. Mogelson was at the U.S. Capitol when rioters broke in two weeks ago and describes a scene that was at turns frightening and absurd. Mogelson has been following right-wing demonstrations across the country and draws some connections between the riot in Washington and earlier events, including rowdy protests at state capitals in Oregon and Michigan. He writes: “The occupation of restricted government sanctums was an affirmation of dominance so emotionally satisfying that it was an end in itself—proof to elected officials, to Biden voters, and also to the occupiers themselves that they were still in charge.”
Finally, don’t miss these MinnPost reads from the past week:
- “Minnesota is vaccinating for COVID-19 more slowly than other states. Here’s why” by Greta Kaul
- “Minnesota’s GOP leaders continue to struggle with saying the 2020 election was legitimate,” by Peter Callaghan.
- “What we know so far about COVID-19 spread among line 3 workers in northern Minnesota,” by Walker Orenstein.