Bush Declares a ‘State of Emergency’ in Washington As Cost of Obama’s Swearing-In Ceremony Soars to £110m
Paul Thompson, Daily Mail (London), January 14, 2009
Barack Obama’s inauguration is set to cost more than £100m making it the most expensive swearing-in ceremony in US history.
The President-elect will take less than a minute to recite the oath of office in front of an estimated two million people in the US capital next week.
But by the time the final dance has been held at one of the many inaugural balls the costs for the day will be a staggering £110m.
The cost was revealed as Mr Obama scrambled to answer questions about the nomination of Treasury Secretary pick Timothy Geithner.
Geithner–the president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank whose selection by Obama as Treasury chief in November–is facing questions about an ‘illegal’ housekeeper whose work papers lapsed while she was employed by his family, and about several years when Geithner did not pay £35,000 of Social Security and Medicare taxes for himself.
Obama’s White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said in a statement that Geithner had committed honest mistakes that he quickly addressed upon learning of them.
‘He made a common mistake on his taxes, and was unaware that his part-time housekeeper’s work authorization expired for the last three months of her employment.
‘We hope that the Senate will confirm him with strong bipartisan support so that he can begin the important work of the country,’ Gibbs said.
As the Obama team went into damage control over Geither, President Bush declared a state of emergency in Washington–because so many people were expected to attend the inauguration.
In doing so he paved the way for unlimited funding to be released to those local authorities responsible for staging the event.
A president mostly uses the power to declare a state of emergency during a crisis, such as a hurricane or other natural disaster.
The bulk of the cost for the event will be on security with more than 10,000 police and troops forming a ring of steel around Washington DC.
Obama has managed to raise £30m towards the cost of the event with a host of Hollywood stars, including Sharon Stone and Halle Berry, contributing the maximum amount of £33,000.
His money will fund many of the extravagant balls and also for giant TV screens to be placed along The Mall to allow visitors to witness the historic moment when America swears in its first black president.
A spokesman for Obama said they wanted as many people as possible to be able to witness the event.
But it will be the US taxpayer who picks up the main part of the bill to cover security and transport costs.
Officials in Washington DC and neighbouring states have sent a request to Congress for £50m to cover a variety of inaugural costs.
Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty revealed that is amount that will be billed in the days after the January 20th event. US authorities had previously budgeted just £10m for the day based on previous inaugurations for George Bush and Bill Clinton.
A White House spokesman said President Bush had willingly approved the extra money.
He said President Bush ‘declared an emergency exists in the District of Columbia’ linked to the inauguration.
It said the city would get federal money for protective measures ‘undertaken to save lives and protect public health and safety.’
At least two million people are expected at the swearing-in and parade next Tuesday when Obama will be seen in his new official limousine, dubbed the ‘Obamamobile’.
Officials estimate 10,000 charters buses will arrive in Washington with roughly 500,000 passengers.
All bridges leading into Washington are being closed and cars banned from a two mile area where Obama will stand on the steps of the US Capitol building to take the oath of office.
Visitors have been told to use public transport and be in their place at least three hours before the service begins.
U.S. intelligence services said such a high profile event would be perfect for a terrorist attack, but they have no specific intelligence that anything has been planned.
Obama will use the same Bible used by Abraham Lincoln during the swearing in ceremony.