Late Swearing-In Means There was No President Briefly

Since nobody on Capitol Hill cares about the Constitution, this constitutes trivia.

The musical interlude at the inauguration ceremony that extended for about six minutes after 12 Noon today, after Joe Biden had already taken the oath of office as vice president, temporarily prevented Barack Obama from taking the presidential oath.

Obama did not, as at least one TV commenter said, automatically become president at Noon.

The Constitution is explicit. The president-to-be must take the oath and the outgoing president’s term of office ends at 12 Noon. This is not a monarchy where the transfer of power takes place strictly by operation of law. The new president must agree to take on the job by saying so.

Article II, section 1, provides:

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The 20th Amendment sets the end of a presidential term at Jan. 20 at 12 Noon: “The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January…”

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