Why January 20th?

Does that date have a particular significance? Historical, perhaps? Or is it just a baseless tradition?

500 posts and counting…

It’s January 20th for the presidential inauguration because that’s what the Constitution says.

Why that day was chosen has several reasons:

  1. It gives time for the new Congress (which meets on January 3) to sort out any Electoral College problems. Previously, the old Congress had to settle the disputes and the new Congress and the new President started their terms on March 4.

  2. I read somewhere once that Congress did some research and discovered that the weather in Washington is, on the average, better on January 20 than on March 4. I don’t know if that has held up, but since moving to January 20, only one inauguration has had to been moved because of weather and that was Reagan’s second one in 1985.

the original date for the inaugeration was in March - that wasn’t set in the Constitution, just the fluke of how long it took to ratify the thing, then for the states to elect their electors, and so on. I believe the terms of the Representatives and Senators expired then as well.

Because of the length of time between the elections and the March swearing-in, you had the “lame duck” period - a President and a Congress who for four months didn’t have much political authority.

The 20th Amendment, adopted in 1933, provides that the new Congressfolk will be sworn in on January 3, and the new President and Veepster on January 20. The office-holders at the time the Amendment came into force lost a couple of months off their terms.

Dammit, I got beat. But as you can see, it’s not particularly historical or traditional. It just is.