Leaders of Congress on Wednesday presented President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris with traditional inauguration gifts of vases, flags and photos after they took office on the Capitol steps.
Democratic and Republican leaders took turns offering their congratulations during the early afternoon event in the Capitol Rotunda.
“If we had the lunch, we would have had California wine,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, noting that there would be no luncheon due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, who is expected to cede control of the chamber later Wednesday to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), presented flags that flew over the building during the inaugural ceremony.
“The Star Spangled Banner is our greatest symbol of [the] endurance of the American idea. It flies over this building on triumphant days and on tragic ones for all factions and all parties,” said McConnell (R-Ky.), appearing to allude to this month’s deadly Capitol riot, during which former President Trump’s supporters broke into the building and disrupted certification of Biden’s victory.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) offered a hearty congratulations as he presented framed photos of the day’s swearing-in ceremony.
“President Biden, Vice President Harris, Dr. Biden and Mr. Emhoff, on behalf of Republicans in Congress, congratulations, very proud of you both,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said to Biden, “I listened to your speech today. You talked about the tension and division. Our tasks as leaders is to bind this nation’s wounds and dedicate ourselves to the values [that] all Americans share together.”
He noted also that Harris is the first female vice president. “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, or by our actions,” McCarthy said.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) presented Biden and Harris each with a large commemorative vase made by the Lenox crystal company, which the first lady said she would use for roses.
When first lady Jill Biden remarked that her husband has asked her to address him as “Mr. President,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) shared a laugh with the room.
“Dr. Biden, he makes you call him Mr President? That marriage is about to get rocky, I can tell,” Hoyer joked.
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