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U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and Jill Biden arrive

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and Jill Biden arrive at his Biden's inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. During today's inauguration ceremony Joe Biden becomes the 46th president of the United States. Credit: Getty Images/Win McNamee

Inauguration Point

This edition of The Point brings you accounts from New York’s representatives on the day Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States.

Watching live in D.C.

Rep. Tom Suozzi said the attack on the U.S. Capitol has changed his perspective, noting he was very moved by "simple things" like the rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner."

"Things I may have taken for granted in the past seemed special – ‘that our flag was still there,’ " he said. Lady Gaga certainly did her part with a grand gesture to drive the point home.

Suozzi, who was seated on a balcony below the porch where Biden took the oath of office, said it was smart of the new president to first focus on how we conduct ourselves.

"There can be no policy without people working together with each other with a level of respect and civility," he said.

There's no doubt that Vermont’s Bernie Sanders snatched the title of male fashion icon by wearing his brown Gore-Tex parka, accessorized with humble, hand-knitted mittens made by a Vermont constituent from repurposed wool sweaters and lined with fleece from recycled plastic bottles.

But Chuck Schumer did try.

New York’s senior senator bought a new black cashmere overcoat made in Rochester by Hickey Freeman, a clothing manufacturer who has gotten federal funding to expand production. Schumer officially became Senate majority leader later in the afternoon as his wife, Iris Weinshall, looked on.

According to a Schumer spokesman, the president of the company called Schumer after Democrats swept two Georgia Senate seats earlier this month and boosted him to majority leader. With the new job, he needed some new clothes. Schumer purchased the coat, price unknown; he already had a roster of the company’s suits.

For Rep. Lee Zeldin, who was in attendance, the goal was to try to listen to Biden’s speech from a variety of different perspectives.

"I think the speech today hit many points that people on the left and on the right feel very strongly about, words we want to hear from leaders about goals the government ought to be pursuing," Zeldin said. "If you’re looking to come out swinging against healing and unity, you might need to do a little self-reflection before you weigh in against it."

But Zeldin pointed out that while some on the right might reject Biden’s call for healing and unity now, it was the left four years ago rejecting the newly elected president and promising endless opposition.

"It’s potentially going to be an uncomfortable situation because while I think a lot of people on both sides will have the right intentions and say the right words, it’s not going to get better unless both sides are willing to lay more cards on the table, not just the ones they’re comfortable with," Zeldin continued.

Biden’s push to stamp out white supremacy, with which Zeldin agrees, is one example of an initiative that will ring false to many conservatives if it’s not accompanied by attention paid to violence Zeldin believes frequently accompanies more liberal protests.

But a less-gracious side of Zeldin was more apparent on Twitter, where he often does much of his talking. Inauguration Day started with two early- morning tweets, one on the Keystone XL Pipeline project, assailing the fact that "One of President-Elect Biden’s first items of business for the day is to kill it of course."

The other mourned Biden’s plan to stop building the Southern wall Trump so loved, and the statement: "It’s clear that one of the necessary pledges of the winning presidential election 4 years from now should be to FINISH THE WALL."

Andrew Garbarino’s seat at the scaled-down inauguration was on the lawn stage-left near other freshmen colleagues.

"I liked the unification tone of [Biden’s] speech and how we are a stronger nation when we are United and not divided," the Bayport Republican wrote in a text as the event wrapped up. "I look forward to hearing his plans on unifying the country and will work with him to make our country and New York stronger."

That’s the kind of upbeat and middle-of-the-road tone Garbarino has largely adopted since taking over Pete King’s seat in CD2. On Jan. 6, Garbarino broke with the majority of his GOP colleagues who objected to the certification of Electoral College votes. He said in a statement "the role of Congress is not to overturn the election."

In the leadup to the inauguration ceremony Wednesday, Garbarino joined 16 other incoming House Republicans in a congratulatory letter to Biden. The group said their constituents "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."

The letter itself was a bit of a crossroads of the new post-Trump GOP, including two Republicans who voted to impeach (Garbarino didn’t), as well as a swath who objected to Electoral College votes. Amped-up rhetoric from the right hasn’t exactly disappeared with Biden’s ascension. Before the noon handover, a Garbarino campaign email went out calling Inauguration Day "Day 1 of the most radical administration in our history!"

"Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are putting together a cabinet full of far-left radicals and pushing a socialist agenda that will be backed and supported by the Democrat-controlled Congress," the email said, launching a "Republican Defense Fund."

Asked about the message of the campaign email, distinct from his unification remarks, Garbarino said the email was prescheduled and he didn’t know it was going out.

Back home in New York

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who watched the ceremony from Albany, said he would have attended but wanted to stay put due to security concerns in state capitals across the country. He noted during a news conference Wednesday that those concerns turned out to be unfounded, but "better safe than sorry." He said the country saw that Biden is a nice guy and "spoke from his heart."

"It was very uplifting. He truly showed it was not only a new day but a new way."

Former Rep. Pete King started his morning tweeting about Joe Biden, saying it was "imperative that every American wish him well."

From his home in Seaford, King watched the inauguration proceedings carefully, telling The Point he’s still following Washington politics "intensely."

And King was pleased with what he saw, noting that it was an unusual inauguration speech especially because of the lack of agenda and partisan perspective.

"He touched all of the points he had to touch," King said. "Considering all of the rancor of the last several years from both sides, I think he tried to find common themes. There was no acrimony in his speech … He wasn’t laying out an agenda, he was laying out a theme about how we come together."

"It might seem like he was avoiding issues, but it was totally appropriate for the moment we’re in," King said.

King noted that he would likely disagree with Biden about 80% of the time on policy, but said the need to find room for compromise is paramount.

"Republicans have to be able to find something in there they strongly agree with … and at least find areas of compromise. There are other [issues] you can’t agree on but don’t make it as though Biden is trying to destroy the country."

— Lane Filler, Rita Ciolli, Mark Chiusano and Randi F. Marshall

Pencil Point

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