Kentucky Politics

There were calls for unity and predictions of division among Kentucky’s congressional members as Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States.

Kentucky’s Republican senior Sen. Mitch McConnell took part in one of the official festivities—presenting a flag that flew over the inaugural ceremony to new Vice President Kamala Harris.

“The star-spangled banner is the greatest symbol of the endurance of the American idea. It flies over this building on triumphant days and tragic ones. For all factions and all parties,” McConnell said during the ritual.

First elected in 1984, McConnell served in the Senate with both Biden and Harris.

McConnell played a historic role throughout former President Donald Trump’s presidency, from bolstering Trump’s campaign in 2016 by refusing to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, to blaming Trump for the Capitol insurrection days before he left office.

Now McConnell will return to his role as Senate minority leader, where he will still wield considerable power as the top elected Republican in the country.

Kentucky’s other U.S. senator was not so gracious about the new leadership.

During an interview on Fox News shortly before the swearing-in ceremony, Republican Sen. Rand Paul said a peaceful transition of power is important, but that he wasn’t looking forward to the new administration.

“I think while I’m not excited about the transformation, it’s peaceful and I think that’s good for our country,” Paul said.

Paul expressed worries that Republican leaders would vote to convict Trump, saying it would destroy the party.

“I think it’s a hugely partisan exercise on the part of the Democrats, but for Republicans who go along with it, I think they’ll destroy the party. Donald Trump isn’t everything in the party, but he did bring a lot of people to the party,” Paul said.

The Senate is expected to take up the impeachment trial in the coming days.

First District Republican Rep. James Comer said during an interview on Bloomberg Radio that the Biden administration was already spurning Republicans by blocking the Keystone XL pipeline and rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement.

“These are huge issues that Republicans are adamantly opposed to and not the kind of issues you would expect a president who talks about unity to start his administration with,” Comer said.

Third District Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth said in a statement that he looked forward to supporting the new administration.

“With President Biden and Vice President Harris leading the way, we will change the course of the crises we face, earn back the respect of the world, and begin our recovery in earnest. I am honored to share in this historic day with my colleagues and the American people,” Yarmuth said.

Sixth District Republican Rep. Andy Barr congratulated Biden and Harris over Twitter.

“It is time for our nation to come together, Republicans, Democrats and all Americans, to press forward towards the future and unite our country to confront our challenges and achieve success together as one nation,” Barr said.

With Democrats now in control of the House and Senate, Kentucky’s only majority party member is Yarmuth, who is the chair of the House Budget Committee.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.