US Capitol East and West Sides split image



By Frances Hodong
Radio Free Ozarks Washington, DC Reporter
January 20th, 2022

In a rare display of bipartisanship, representatives from the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee signed an agreement on Thursday to conduct a coin flip to determine which party gets to use the west side of the US Capitol to hold their presidential oath-taking at noon EST on January 20th, 2025. The party losing the coin toss must use the east side of the Capitol to swear in their competing president-elect at that same time. The agreement was signed at a closed-door ceremony on Capitol Hill, under the auspices of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

Since the building’s earliest days, the east side of the Capitol was traditionally used for inaugurations. Ronald Reagan broke with precedent for his first inauguration in 1981, a move ascribed to accommodate a greater number of spectators while providing a sweeping view of the National Mall. Bad weather forced the ceremony inside for Reagan’s second inauguration in 1985, but since that time all inaugurations have been on the west side. For the upcoming competing inaugurations, both Democrats and Republicans see the west side as conferring more legitimacy upon their selected president.

Senator Tom Cotton
Sen. Tom Cotton

“Frankly, I would be fine with the west or the east side when we swear in Donald Trump for a second term,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), head of the RNC negotiating team, said in a short statement. “The Republican party is the party of Ronald Reagan, who boldly broke with precedent to take the oath on the west side, looking out across America. But the Republican party is also the party of Abraham Lincoln, our third-greatest president, who took the oath on the east side both times. And much like Lincoln, our president will be inaugurated on the eve of a civil war. Some might say that by using the east side we would be symbolically turning our backs on America and democracy. To them I would say: shut the (expletive) up. This is a bipartisan agreement. When we work together, America wins. What happens after that is anybody’s guess.”

Democrats are all-out hoping for the west side, but “if we lose the coin flip I’m sure we’ll have our usual disorganized confusion where we stumble around in a daze and complain a lot and then probably sue someone or something too late and lose,” said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), visibly agitated. “Then we’ll give up and use the east side to swear in our real president, whomever that may be.”

Senator Ted Cruz
Sen. Ted Cruz

Others in the Republican camp are less flexible. “Frankly, the only way we lose the coin flip is if the process is rigged,” an angry Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) stated while standing on the steps outside the Capitol. Cruz, who was not part of the negotiations, made his declaration while gesturing like he was holding a rifle and making a “trigger-pull” motion with his right index finger. “Let me be clear, there will be consequences if there is a Democrat attempt to steal this coin flip. Hell fire and fury.” Added Cruz: “Why don’t you make a video of me saying that so I can get on Hannity tonight?”

The 837-page agreement goes into some detail. Following the certification(s) of the president-elect(s) by Congress(es) on January 6th, 2025, representatives from each party will meet under the Capitol rotunda, in front of the statue of George Washington, to conduct a coin toss using a specially-built coin-tossing machine. A full security detail of Capitol police officers will be on hand to protect the participants from any protesters and from each other.

Sources close to the negotiations said that the parties could not come to any agreement on who would get to call “heads or tails” for the coin flip. As a compromise, a special titanium coin bearing the image of a donkey on one side and an elephant on the other will be created under the auspices of the US Mint. The agreement contains an appendix running 328 pages with the specifications for this coin, including the construction of a computer-controlled coin-tossing apparatus followed by a testing regimen of exactly 10,000 coin flips. If the testing regimen does not return a perfect 5,000/5,000 result it must be repeated after an investigation and corrective measures implemented by a special committee run by the US Mint and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The language of the agreement specifically prohibits any side of the coin being designated as the obverse or reverse, which sources explained was because an “obverse” side could be seen as more prestigious than a “reverse” side. The agreement goes on to lay out in great detail the requirements for storage, transport, and security of the coin and the coin-tossing device, with additional extensive language laying out the installation, testing and certification of the device. A supplemental emergency funding appropriation is expected to be introduced into Congress next month, providing initial funding of more than $19 million for the coin project.

Looking ahead to Inauguration Day, the JCCIC is now outlining the framework of a security plan that will be put into place to keep the two inauguration ceremonies physically separate, with towering sight-proof fences and a massive police and National Guard presence. Separate Metro stations serving separate Metro subway lines will be designated for each side. The west side ceremony will use the Smithsonian Station on the Blue/Orange/Silver Lines, with the east side using the Union Station stop on the Red Line.

Per sources, a PowerPoint slide shown during framework discussions included a tentative “depth chart” of federal judges who would be on hand to conduct the respective oaths-of-office. Having multiple judges on hand was described as necessary in case any of them back out at the last moment or are taken captive. On the Republican side, the slide read “1. Clarence Thomas, 2. Samuel Alito, 3. Any Old Asshole Trump Judge.” On the Democratic side, the slide read “1. Sonya Sotomayor, 2. Elena Kagan, 3. TBD (could candidate swear themselves in if necessary?)”

Senator Amy Klobuchar
Sen. Amy Klobuchar

The framework is still being negotiated, but committee member Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) noted that military flyovers will be prohibited. “We just can’t be sure about the loyalty of those pilots. They might get conflicting orders and not know who to believe. They might start fighting with each other during the ceremony or try to attack us,” Klobuchar noted. “You’d think they wouldn’t get all frisky right above the Capitol, but we’re through the looking glass here.”

The security plan, by design, will not include any provisions for what happens after the inaugurations.