Long Island members of Congress set their differences aside in welcoming Wednesday’s historic inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington, D.C.
Both Democratic and Republican Congressional representatives set an optimistic tone with hopes for the new administration to bring unity to the country.
“[Biden] is exactly the person we need right now at this time in American history,” Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) said. “The country is divided and has been through a trauma. [Biden] will bridge our divide and work to heal our nation. He can and he will bring us together because he knows the politics, he knows the policy, and he knows the people.”
The inauguration happened exactly two weeks after a deadly storming of the Capitol building by President Donald Trump supporters opposing the certification of Biden’s votes. It was a historic inauguration for a multitude of reasons: there were thousands of National Guard members stationed because of those riots and other threats by extremists; it was held without a public crowd due to coronavirus; it made Kamala Harris the first woman, Black, and Indian-American vice president; and the outgoing president was not present for the ceremony as was tradition.
“[Biden] and [Harris] took a sacred oath today to our Constitution and our country as part of today’s peaceful transition of power in a ceremony that has long been familiar to and celebrated by freedom-loving Americans,” Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said. “The months and years ahead are filled with great challenges and great opportunities for a country that truly does need less violence in our streets, more positivity in our hearts, and more understanding among our people.”
Zeldin had voted against certifying Biden’s win, siding with another 120 GOP House representatives who objected to Biden’s electoral college votes in Arizona. The move had Democrats calling for his resignation for what they saw as perpetuating a myth of a stolen election, which led to violence at the Capitol.
However, in the statement, Zeldin upheld that “respectful disagreement is a protected and treasured American value,” he said, “and there will be many vibrant debates to be had over the next four years. Let us work towards ensuring they will always remain in the spirit that serves the betterment of our great country.”
Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) noted the historic nature of the inauguration, while also looking toward a brighter future.
“I hope it is the start of a new era in Washington, where we finally put the politics of hate and division behind us,” she said, “I hope it is when we can begin to heal and come together once again.”
Sixteen House Republican freshmen, including Andrew Garbarino (R-Bay Shore), sent a letter congratulating Biden and outlining their hopes for the new administration.
“After two impeachments, lengthy inter-branch investigations, and, most recently, the horrific attack on our nation’s capital, it is clear that the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans does not serve a single American,” they wrote. “Americans are tired of the partisan gridlock and simply want to see leaders from both sides of the aisle work on issues important to American families, workers, and businesses.”
“America is not defined by the last 4 years,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens), who represents parts of southwestern Nassau County. “As we turn the page, I’m eager to work with this administration to repair our global standing.”
Biden’s inauguration address reflected the Congress members’ desires. He spoke about healing from the hardships of the coronavirus pandemic and ending divisiveness that has risen in American culture.
“To overcome these challenges to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words,” Biden said. “It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity. We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this – if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.”