Politics might move to the back burner on Inauguration Day as the capital celebrates with red, white, and blue bunting, soaring speeches, glamorous balls, and bipartisan committees. But make no mistake, the president and the Republican leadership in the House kept the political fire kindled Monday.
One piece of evidence was President Obama's speech, which shined a spotlight on and elevated liberal ideas, making public his penchant for highlighting liberal philosophy, something that came out during the fiscal-cliff negotiations as well. The president touched on climate change, gay marriage, and the effectiveness of collective innovation.
"For we have always understood that when times change, so must we, that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges, that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action," Obama said. "We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.… Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well."
The president was not alone, though, telegraphing political messages on a day traditionally set aside for ceremony and unity.
House Republicans announced Monday that the Rules Committee would meet on Tuesday to consider a measure unveiled last week at the GOP conference retreat in Williamsburg, Va. The legislation would extend the debt ceiling—which has become politically electrified during Obama's presidency—by three months but would freeze congressional salaries until the Senate passes a budget.
House Speaker John Boehner, seated just rows behind the president on the Capitol's West Front during Monday's events, criticized the upper chamber last week, betting that the public would view the GOP as the more responsible party this time around.
“We are going to pursue strategies that will obligate the Senate to finally join the House in confronting the government’s spending problem. The principle is simple: No budget, no pay,” Boehner said last week.
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, rebutted the speaker on the Sunday news shows, saying that the upper chamber would pass a budget this year.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity for us because in our budget that we will pass, we will have tax reform…. It’s going to include revenues,” Schumer said on NBC's Meet the Press.
Schumer, meanwhile, emceed the inauguration on Monday as the head of the joint committee overseeing the day's events.