WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden became the 46th president of the United States Wednesday with a promise of unity and boldness and marking the beginning of a push for progressive policies in Washington that could have a widespread impact on taxpayers.
“Today is America’s day,” Biden said. “A day of history and hope and resolve. Today is the triumph of a cause, not a candidate, and that cause is democracy. Democracy has prevailed.”
Biden said America has always been a “restless, bold and optimistic” country that looks ahead.
“We are a great nation of good people and we have much to restore, much to heal and much to gain,” he said.
Biden noted in particular the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, racial strife and economic concerns that need immediate attention.
“Forces that divide us are not new, but without unity and peace we are left with exhausting outrage.”
Biden also extended an olive branch to Republicans.
“Hear me out,” he said. “I will be a president for all Americans and will fight for those who did not support me just as much as those who did.”
Biden has said he wants to scale back some of the tax cuts contained in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which Trump signed into law and which reduced federal income taxes on individuals and businesses across the country.
In comments shortly after leaving the White House for the last time as president Wednesday, Donald Trump wished the Biden administration well before also taking a shot at his tax policies.
“I hope they don’t raise your taxes, but if they do, I told you so,” Trump said.
Biden and Harris also have vowed to reverse course on a number of other Trump-era policy decisions. That includes rejoining the Paris Climate Accord to combat climate change; ending funding for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and easing other strict immigration enforcement measures; revoking Trump’s permit allowing construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada through the U.S., which would have increased capacity to process billions of barrels of crude oil from the Alberta tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas; among other new directives.
“This is just the beginning of an energy agenda that will cripple us on so many levels: jobs, cost of living, and opportunity,” Daniel Turner, founder and executive director of Power The Future, writes at RealClearEnergy.org about the Keystone pipeline policy shift. “It will hurt our critical allies in Canada and Europe. It will benefit our enemies, Russia and China. And it will do absolutely nothing for the environment.”
The historic day, which included the swearing in of the first-ever female and Black vice president — former California Sen. Kamala Harris — came exactly two weeks after thousands of protesters attacked the Capitol Building as the Senate and House voted to certify each state’s electoral votes.
Biden is now the oldest president ever and the 15th former vice president to ascend to the highest office.
The National Mall and streets around the Capitol were closed off for safety and health concerns. Some 25,000 National Guard soldiers were on hand maintaining a 4.6-mile security perimeter, although about a dozen soldiers were removed ahead of time after being vetted by the FBI for ties to militia groups.
Aside from members of Congress, dignitaries on hand included former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and their spouses, and former Vice Presidents Mike Pence and Dan Quayle.
Breaking with tradition, Trump did not attend the ceremony. He and his family departed the White House shortly after 8 a.m. on Marine One for the short trip to Andrews Air Force Base and then a final ride aboard Air Force One as president to Florida.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts performed Biden’s swearing in ceremony, while Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor did the same for Harris. Justices and Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch, Amy Comey Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh were also in attendance, as well as Associate Justice Elena Kagan.
Lady Gaga performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the ceremony, with latter performances by Jennifer Lopez singing “American the Beautiful” and Garth Brooks performing “Amazing Grace.”
Due to security reasons and coronavirus protocols, the traditional inaugural parade from the Capitol to the White House was cancelled this year.