Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
By PAUL C. BARTON, Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - It may be the inauguration of a Democratic president but Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee will play a key role in the ceremonies set for Monday.
As ranking Republican on the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, Alexander will even give a short speech from the inaugural platform before President Barack Obama is sworn in for a second term. Tens of thousands on the grounds near the Capitol will be listening, as well as millions on television.
Alexander, a presidential candidate himself in 1996 and 2000, said he is going to speak of the "remarkable tradition" of Americans accepting a peaceful transfer of power after an election every four years.
At 10 a.m. on Monday, Alexander and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., along with their wives, will have coffee at the White House with Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill. Schumer is the chairman of the Rules and Administration Committee.
After the coffee, Alexander and Schumer will escort the Obamas and the Bidens to the Capitol in a motorcade.
Following a two-minute speech, Alexander will introduce Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor who will swear in Biden as vice president.
The president is scheduled to be sworn in at noon Monday.
After the inauguration, Alexander and Schumer will escort the Bidens and Obamas to a luncheon in a part of the Capitol called Statuary Hall.
And following the luncheon, they will escort them to the east front of the Capitol for a review of troops.
Afterwards the president will return to a viewing stand near the White House to watch the inaugural parade.
Alexander also had the prerogative to invite a Tennessee musical group to perform at the ceremony. The choir from Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., will sing from the inaugural viewing area for an hour before the event.
"I've always been impressed with Lee University's musical traditions," Alexander said.
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