Washington Preps For A New Prez

Mark Knoller is a White House Correspondent for CBS News.
It's a week before America chooses its next president – but the government is already gearing up for Inauguration Day.

Part of the sidewalk in front of the White House has now been fenced off. It's where they'll start building the big reviewing stand from which the 44th President of the United States will watch the Inaugural Parade.

Across the street in Lafayette Park, trailers and more fencing have been moved into position. That's the site where booths for the news media will be constructed along with grandstands for VIPs with special tickets for the parade.

Up at the U.S. Capitol, the Joint Congressional Committee on the Inaugural Ceremonies began its preparations last month – holding a ceremony Sept. 24 to mark the driving of the "first nail" in the inaugural platform.

There's nothing in the Constitution that says the country must make a big to-do over the inauguration of a new president. All that's required is that the oath of office be administered to the president-elect at noon on January 20.

But even at a time of record high deficits and a national debt topping $10 trillion, the government has set big money aside for more ceremony.

The Office of Management and Budget says that more than $25 million was appropriated in the budget for this year. It is split, though not evenly, among the National Park Service, the U.S. Secret Service and the District of Columbia for costs associated with inauguration day.

The Joint Congressional Committee has its own funding – as does the Presidential Inaugural Committee that will be established by the president-elect. Four years ago, it spent some $40 million – mostly from corporate contributions – on four days of activities before and after the inauguration - including the many inaugural balls that are traditionally held.

Some top hotels in Washington say they're already sold out for the inauguration.

So much for the economic downturn.

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    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.