Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar plans to use her time on the national stage during the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden to remind Americans after an extraordinary two weeks in Washington that democracy cannot be taken for granted.
"It's on all of us to cherish it and to pass it on to the next generation," Klobuchar said Tuesday, about 24 hours before her prominent speaking slot in the inaugural ceremony. "It is on all of us to take up its torch."
As the ranking Democrat and soon-to-be chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee, Klobuchar ended up as the lead Senate Democrat on the congressional planning committee for the inaugural ceremonies at the U.S. Capitol.
That will have her close to the most important action of the day, including the chance to deliver a speech that Klobuchar said will run about four minutes.
Klobuchar said she and her husband, John Bessler, will be among a small group attending an early-morning church service with Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and their spouses.
She'll introduce the Supreme Court justices who will deliver the oaths of office and introduce the newly minted President Biden as he delivers his own speech.
Once the ceremony's over, a small group will head into the Capitol for the signing of documents. Klobuchar said she will also be among a small group of lawmakers who present gifts to Biden and Harris.
"We got them Lenox vases," she said.
Given the safety protocols forced by the pandemic and the security presence in response to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, it will be an inauguration like no other.
All participants will wear masks except when speaking, Klobuchar said. Participants will sit in small, socially distanced pods.
Typically, members of Congress get big batches of tickets for inaugural ceremonies. Klobuchar recalled that in 2008 for President Barack Obama's first inauguration, when former Sen. Al Franken's swearing-in was delayed by a recount and lawsuit, she got both sets of tickets for Minnesota's Senate delegation.
"I got 500 extra tickets that year," Klobuchar said. "This year I got one."
Most of Minnesota's 10-member congressional delegation plan to attend Wednesday's ceremony. Sen. Tina Smith and Reps. Angie Craig, Ilhan Omar, Dean Phillips, Tom Emmer, Pete Stauber and Michelle Fischbach all plan to be there. Rep. Betty McCollum will be watching from home in St. Paul; Rep. Jim Hagedorn's office did not respond to numerous requests for information on his plans.
Klobuchar said she is glad the inauguration is going ahead at the front of the U.S. Capitol, despite security concerns. She noted that a group of ground-level windows that a mob of protesters broke through on Jan. 6 will be plainly visible from the stage.
The symbolism is important, Klobuchar said. "We will not back down."