By Paul Kane
WASHINGTON — This is Donald Trump’s day, without question, but in addition to the president-elect and Vice President-elect Mike Pence taking their oaths of office, Americans will see a fair bit of pomp and circumstance that come with any big political event.
Two prominent figures on display will be Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. That’s because Blunt and Schumer are the outgoing chairman and ranking Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee, which is week in and week out one of the sleepiest panels in all of Congress.
Except in the months leading up to an inauguration, when the Rules committee’s leaders serve as chair and ranking member of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. That’s separate from the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which oversees the official events that are not on the Capitol grounds, such as the parade and formal balls later that evening.
This means that Blunt and Schumer will effectively be the masters of ceremony for the swearing-in that starts in the late morning and at the gala luncheon held afterward in Statuary Hall.
As chairman, Blunt gets to be the first speaker when the inaugural begins and he also had wide sway over who got to perform and what food gets served at the luncheon. It’s no coincidence that a musical performance, just before Pence is sworn in, will come from the Missouri State University Chorale - Blunt’s undergraduate alma mater.
Schumer, the new Senate minority leader, will be among the congressional leaders offering toasts to the president and vice president at the luncheon.
Four years ago, when Democrats were in the majority, Schumer served as chairman of the inaugural panel and ran the show as President Barack Obama took the oath for his second term.
This time around, as the presidential and congressional campaigns went back and forth throughout the summer and fall, several possible awkward outcomes for Friday’s swearing-in lurked on the horizon. Blunt, for one, was in a very tough reelection battle against Democrat Jason Kander, and had he lost, that likely would have left the inaugural M.C. duties to Schumer alone, no matter who ended up with the majority.
In that scenario, he ideally would’ve preferred overseeing his home-state friend Hillary Clinton’s inauguration, but also would have had to oversee Trump’s swearing-in.
Instead, Blunt pulled out a come-from-behind victory and made that a moot point.