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About Traditions & Symbols | Taking the Oath

At the beginning of a new term of office, before they can assume their legislative activities, senators-elect must take the oath of office in an open session of the Senate. Senators-elect—both the freshmen and the returning veterans—are escorted to the presiding officer’s desk by another senator to take the oath. Customarily, the other senator from the senator-elect’s state serves as escort, although any senator can carry out this duty. Occasionally, the senator-elect chooses a senator from another state as a sign of friendship or political allegiance.

A ban on photography in the Senate Chamber has led senators to devise alternative ways of capturing for posterity the highly significant moment of taking the oath of office. Well into the 20th century, the vice president invited newly sworn senators and their families into his Capitol office for a reenactment for home-state photographers. Beginning in the early 1980s, following the restoration of the Old Senate Chamber, reenactment ceremonies have been held in that historical setting.

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