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A Look At Harris' Busy Inauguration Day


Vice President Kamala Harris made history today. She is now the first woman, the first Black person and the first Asian American to hold the office. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor administered the oath. And joining us now to talk about Harris' big first day is NPR Washington desk reporter Miles Parks.

Hi, Miles.


SHAPIRO: The oath of office was maybe one minute out of a very long day. What was the rest of it like?

PARKS: It was really busy. Before she was sworn in, she and her husband, Doug Emhoff, joined the Bidens and congressional leadership for a prayer service. They then made their way to the Capitol for the inauguration, where she was escorted by U.S. Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman, who you might remember two weeks ago, redirected the mob that was heading toward the Senate chamber. He redirected them, which a lot of people have credited with potentially saving lives. Harris...

SHAPIRO: It was a really powerful moment this morning. Yeah.

PARKS: Yeah, absolutely. Harris and her husband also showed Mike Pence, the departing vice president, and his wife, Karen Pence, to their motorcade, as Ayesha mentioned. Normally, the new president would do this for their predecessor, but as we know, President Trump was not there at the inauguration today.

SHAPIRO: Now, as we mentioned, there are some real historic milestones here. First vice president of color, first vice president who is a woman. How were those milestones marked in today's events?

PARKS: They were marked, but in a really subtle way. You know, Biden noted it in his speech today in one of the moments in the speech that got maybe the loudest applause. One of the Bibles Harris was sworn in on was Thurgood Marshall's Bible, who was the Supreme Court's first Black justice. And the Howard marching band - Howard University marching band - performed during this small parade motorcade that happened this afternoon. The vice president, Harris, has talked a lot about how formative her time at Howard was, so you have to imagine hearing that band may have been special for her. Broadly, though, it is stark how little the nation has kind of been focused on these really historic milestones over the last couple months. It's really something - another thing that, you know, maybe the pandemic has stolen from us all.

SHAPIRO: Harris also swore in three new U.S. senators this afternoon. Tell us about the significance of that moment.

PARKS: Yeah, Georgia Senators Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff, as well as Harris' replacement as senator from California, Alex Padilla, who was previously the state's secretary of state. That makes the Senate evenly divided between Democrats and their allies and Republicans. And it makes Harris, as vice president, the tiebreaker in any close vote. That obviously gives the Democrats an edge in furthering their priorities. But as we heard in Joe Biden's speech today, the Biden administration clearly wants to make an effort to reach out to Republicans. They don't want to just use this small Democratic majority in Congress to push through their ideas.

SHAPIRO: You know, the role of vice president has no real formal job description, and different people holding the office have shaped it in different ways. Do we have any indications of what kind of President Kamala Harris is going to be, aside from the tiebreaking vote in the Senate?

PARKS: Well, I mean, just taking a look at how she was as a senator, she is a very public-facing person. She is somebody who is obviously an attorney. She is - loves talking. So, you know, you can expect her, I think, on any issues that matter to her to be out in front. She's not going to be somebody who is just kind of behind-the-scenes. I think it's fair to assume that she's going to be kind of out in front on the legislative priorities.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Miles Parks.

Thanks a lot, Miles.

PARKS: Thanks, Ari.

(SOUNDBITE OF KYGO'S "ID") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Miles Parks is a reporter on NPR's Washington Desk. He covers voting and elections, and also reports on breaking news.