Two weeks after being locked down as a mob breached the U.S. Capitol, Maryland lawmakers described a “very emotional” day Wednesday in which they celebrated more than the inauguration of Democrat Joe Biden as president.
“Particularly for those of us in harm’s way on Jan. 6, it was very emotional,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat. “I was on that platform and celebrating the fact that we could do this in a peaceful way. It was remarkable. It was different.”
Other members of the state’s congressional delegation described feeling comforted that an inauguration — a formal event enshrined in the Constitution — came off smoothly at the same building where rioters supporting outgoing Republican president Donald Trump breached security barricades and stormed inside.
“It went off without a hitch,” said Rep. David Trone, a Democrat who represents Western Maryland and a portion of Montgomery County.
“Watching the inauguration, you’re thinking that (on Jan. 6) there was a sea of thousands and thousands of angry people trying to take over the Capitol. This was mind-numbingly different,” said Trone, who credited officers from many law enforcement agencies, including members of the Maryland National Guard, with helping keep the peace on Inauguration Day.
For Baltimore County Democratic Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the inauguration was a time to exhale.
“It’s a sense of relief,” said Ruppersberger, who was locked down in his office on Jan. 6, watching through a window as the mob scaled walls and shattered windows to get in the Capitol.
“We’re going to get back to the principles that made us who we are,” Ruppersberger said.
He has been to a handful of inaugurations and considers this the most memorable because of the timing and his disregard for Trump, who lost his bid Nov. 3 for a second term. The Capitol siege followed Trump’s repeated unfounded claims that the election was “stolen” and that supporters should not give up trying to keep him in office.
“I’m going to try not to mention him because we need to look forward,” Ruppersberger said.
“You couldn’t tell the Democrats from the Republicans.”— Democratic U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland
Six of Maryland’s seven Democratic U.S. House members attended — all but Rep. Jamie Raskin, who represents parts of Montgomery, Carroll and Frederick counties. Raskin was preparing for the Senate trial of Trump, who was impeached in the House for the second time last week after being accused of inciting the Capitol attack.
Rep. Andy Harris, Maryland’s lone congressional Republican, did not attend. He represents parts of the counties of Baltimore, Carroll and Harford, as well as the Eastern Shore.
In his speech, Biden called for unity and civility, saying it was time to “stop the shouting and lower the temperature” among political factions.
Washington has grown increasingly partisan in recent years — a place where Republicans often don’t cheer for Democratic presidents during annual State of the Union speeches — and vice versa.
The atmosphere at the inauguration — which was attended by outgoing Republican Vice President Mike Pence and House and Senate GOP leaders, but not by Trump — gave the Marylanders in attendance hope.
“I saw many Republicans and they seemed to be participating fully,” Cardin said. “You couldn’t tell the Democrats from the Republicans.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan was among the Republicans in attendance on the Capitol’s West Front, facing the National Mall, which was closed to the public because of concerns about security and the coronavirus pandemic.
Hogan said in a statement: “I pledge to President Biden the same spirit of partnership, honesty, and goodwill that I offered to President Trump and President Obama.”
Rep. Kweisi Mfume of Baltimore reflected Wednesday on Biden’s leadership, in light of Trump’s repeated attacks on his city and its elected officials, including the late Rep. Elijah Cummings.
Biden is “somebody who has empathy for people in all parts of the country,” Mfume said.
Biden, who represented neighboring Delaware in the Senate before becoming Barack Obama’s vice president, has long enjoyed support in Democratic-oriented Maryland.
Trone, who lives in Montgomery County, was among those in Maryland who supported Biden’s campaign by hosting fund-raisers during the 2020 primaries.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Southern Maryland Democrat, greeted Biden after the swearing in as “Mr. President.” The new president suggested that Hoyer still call him “Joe.”
“No, Joe. You’re ‘Mr. President,’” Hoyer replied.
Hoyer called it a day to begin “renewal and rededication.”
“No one is so naive to think that our deep divisions will now yield to full cooperation and consensus,” Hoyer said in a written statement.
“But I am hopeful that the tone our new president has set will make the next four years a time of healing and reunification after such a period of conflict, crisis, and confrontation.”