US President-elect Joe Biden(Reuters/ File photo)
US President-elect Joe Biden(Reuters/ File photo)

Joe Biden swearing-in: Why January 20 serves as Inauguration Day

The 20th Amendment of the US Constitution, ratified in 1933, moved Inauguration Day to January 20, from March 4.
By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Karan Manral
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 11:02 AM IST

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn-in as the 46th President and 49th Vice President of the United States of America on January 20, 2021, respectively. This has been the date of the swearing-in since 1937, when Franklin D Roosevelt took oath of office for his second term.

Before 1937, the swearing-in used to take place on March 4, the year after the presidential election, which meant that the new administration took charge four to five months after the elections. While this time was granted for the incoming President to choose members of his administration, this also caused several problems as the incumbent President became nothing less than a “lame duck.” Therefore, in a bid to reduce this gap, the 20th Amendment of the US Constitution was proposed and adopted, and was ratified on January 23, 1933. The Amendment, which took effect in October that year, moved the Inauguration Day to January 20, while also fixing January 3 as the date for the first meeting of the new Congress.

The incumbent President and Vice President continue to hold office till 11:59:59 pm on January 20, after which power shifts to the incoming administration. The Chief Justice administers oath to the President and Vice-President elect, though the Constitution doesn’t require the Chief Justice to perform this task. Also, in case January 20 falls on a Sunday, a private swearing-in takes place on the day, followed by a public ceremony on January 21. This was the case in 2013 when Barack Obama took oath for a second and final term; interestingly, Biden was Obama’s Vice President across the two terms.

Heightened security measures have been put in place for the Inauguration Day 2021. This has been done due to the violence that broke out at the US Capitol on January 6 as supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump clashed with the police as the Congress assembled to certify Biden and Harris as President and Vice President-elect, respectively. Five people, including a policeman, were killed in the clashes.

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