President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, walk out for the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Credit: Patrick Semansky / AP

Maine’s top political voices congratulated Democrat Joe Biden as he was sworn in Wednesday as the nation’s 46th president.

Even as they marked the historic moment, the political leaders struck a note of caution as Biden and his vice president, Kamala Harris, inherit a politically fractured country still in the grips of a deadly and virulent pandemic.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said the nation faces “immense challenges” but that Biden has “the character to unify our nation and make this government work for its people.”

“It’s time to think anew, and act anew, because we cannot allow our usual petty squabbles to hinder our response to the threats we face. … Now, Congress must do its part, and come together on a bipartisan basis to improve the country we all love so dearly,” King said.

U.S. Sen Susan Collins, a Republican, said the day “marks the start of a new chapter in our history” and that his address “[emphasized] that unity is the path forward for our country.”

“Today’s inauguration was a timely reminder about what makes America such a special country,” Collins said. “I was truly honored to be on the platform today to represent Maine and witness the American tradition of the peaceful transition of our government.”

Collins has worked with Biden for more than two decades, serving alongside him in the Senate from 1997 to 2009 and while he was vice president from 2009 to 2017, her office said.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from Maine’s 1st District, called the inauguration a “really important day in America,” saying that the peaceful transfer of power from Republican Donald Trump to Biden “almost didn’t happen.”

It’s a reference to the bedlam that washed over the U.S. Capitol only two weeks earlier, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the building in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win. In the violence that ensued, five people were killed, including a Capitol Police officer who died after being struck in the head with a fire extinguisher.

That scene drew widespread condemnation and resulted in last week’s historic second impeachment of Trump, whom many in Washington, including the top U.S. Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, blamed for “provoking” the violence with his repeated fabrications of a “stolen” election. The U.S. Senate has yet to convene an impeachment trial.

“I’m very excited for this day. I’m looking forward to working with a new, competent, experienced administration. I’m looking forward to a better day for the American public,” said Pingree, who praised Biden and Harris for putting forward an “amazing agenda” to get “our country back together.”

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine’s 2nd District, praised Biden for his message of unity, saying “We cannot fix what is broken in this country until we as Americans are ready to embrace the hard work of talking with, listening to, and showing respect for our fellow citizens.”

“ I look forward to joining President Biden in this mission of national unity,” Golden said.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said she was “moved” by Wednesday’s ceremony and that Harris — the first woman, the first Black American and the first person of South Asian descent to rise to the vice presidency — will serve as an inspiration to children who can see that “their futures are limitless.”

Despite the challenges that lie ahead, Mills said the transition offers renewed hope that the political fissures in the nation can be healed by “a recognition of our common bonds and shared love for this nation.”

“There is hard work ahead, but, as Americans, we are defined by our ability to rise to the challenges of our times and to create a better future for our children and grandchildren, regardless of the magnitude of the problems we face. Maine joins that challenge,” Mills said.

The Maine Senate’s top Democrat, Troy Jackson of Allagash, said he’s “confident” Biden and Harris can guide the nation through the crises that have beset the American people in the past year.

“President Biden knows what it means to experience the debilitating loss that people are facing all across this country. Both he and Vice President Harris know intimately the challenges working families experience daily after watching their parents find creative ways to scrape by whether it was in Scranton, Pennsylvania, or Oakland, California,” Jackson said.

The Maine Democratic Party hailed the transition as a “new day” for the country.

“Today, we remember all that we’ve lost. But we have hope for what’s ahead, and we have confidence that President Biden and Vice President Harris will follow through on their promise to build our nation back better,” the party said in a statement.