A question from Sejal Shah of Palo Alto, Calif.:
What is the basis for why the vice president is sworn in before the president? Why is it set up that way in the Constitution? Does that mean that for a few minutes Joe Biden will be President Bush's VP?
In the old days, both the president and the new Congress were sworn in on the same day, March 4. It was like that from 1789 until the 20th Amendment was ratified in 1933. Because the vice president is president of the Senate, he was sworn in first, and he then went on to swear in members of the Senate. With the 20th Amendment, the dates were changed: Congress to be sworn in on Jan. 3, the president on Jan. 20. The first president sworn in at this earlier date was Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1937, his second inauguration.