For Inaugural, Congress Suspends Party Divisions President Obama and Vice President Biden were sworn in Tuesday on the steps of the Capitol, where both had served as senators. For many Republican lawmakers, national pride trumped political loyalty on Tuesday.
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For Inaugural, Congress Suspends Party Divisions

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For Inaugural, Congress Suspends Party Divisions

For Inaugural, Congress Suspends Party Divisions

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It's Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep. The location of yesterday's inauguration - the backdrop, the U.S. Capitol - reminds us that Congress organizes this show for each new president, and afterward the two branches of government may or may not work together, although in this case lawmakers were welcoming a former member of the U.S. Senate. NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA: It was a day when members turned up in the House chamber wrapped in heavy overcoats and mufflers. Some playfully balked when the presiding officer, Illinois Democrat Jerry Costello, gave them instructions on assembling outside for the inauguration.

JERRY COSTELLO: Members will be escorted in order of seniority.


WELNA: Hawaii's Neil Abercrombie thought he had a better idea.

NEIL ABERCROMBIE: Mr. Speaker, point of order, the processions should proceed alphabetically.

WELNA: But once again, seniority trumped alphabetical order. And for many Republicans, national pride, at least momentarily, trumped political loyalty. Take South Carolina GOP Senator Lindsey Graham. He was one of John McCain's most outspoken advocates on the campaign trail last year.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Nobody worked harder to try to help Senator McCain. It did not work out. But this is a day of transition of power. It's going to be peaceful. There are millions of people out there who are just smiling from ear to ear. And it's infectious. So, the spirit of the day, I hope it lasts well beyond a day. But like every other American, I'm just going to marvel at the way we do business. And hats off to President Obama. He ran a marvelous campaign, and it was no easy road for him to get here. So this is his day, and I'm going to enjoy it with him.

WELNA: Former GOP House speaker Newt Gingrich was also at the Capitol for the inauguration.

NEWT GINGRICH: I think it's a moment of bringing the country together. I think inaugurations are very important as a reminder that in the end we are all Americans and that we are bound together by far more than we're divided.


INSKEEP: Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States Barack H. Obama and Mrs. Obama.


WELNA: It was the new president's grand entrance to a congressional brunch held in the old House chamber right after the inauguration. That event's most dramatic moment, though, was unplanned. It came when Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy had to be taken away from the gathering on a stretcher after suffering a seizure. At the end of the lunch, President Obama paid tribute to Kennedy, who last year underwent surgery for a brain tumor.

BARACK OBAMA: I would be lying to you if I did not say that right now a part of me is with him. And I think that's true for all of us. This is a joyous time, but it's also a sobering time.

WELNA: Kennedy's doctor later said the senator was doing well and would be released from the hospital this morning. Meanwhile, as President Obama went off to the White House, Majority Leader Harry Reid declared it was time for the Senate to get down to business.

HARRY REID: That's why we're in session now, just a few short hours in the swearing in. Faced with some of the great challenges of our life time and challenges in the history of our country, there really is no time to waste.

WELNA: The Senate did confirm six Cabinet members by acclamation yesterday. But Texas Republican John Cornyn held out for a roll call vote on Hillary Clinton's nomination to be secretary of state. Cornyn demanded a three-hour debate today on what he considers to be inadequate disclosure of foreign donations to Bill Clinton's foundation.

JOHN CORNYN: The former president, who's got this foundation and accepting huge contributions from foreign nationals and foreign countries, happened to be married to the person who'll be the chief diplomat for the United States. There's a concern about a conflict of interest. Senator Lugar and Senator Kerry identified that in the committee. And I think it's a - as I told Senator Clinton, I think it needs some more work to have greater transparency.

WELNA: A vote on confirming Senator Clinton as secretary of state is expected to pass later today. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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