WASHINGTON: Construction is already underway on a huge platform on the steps of the US Capitol, where President Barack Obama will assume his second term on January 21, 2013.
Here is the political schedule between now and inauguration day.
November 13: Congress convenes for its "lame duck session." Senators and representatives of the 112th Congress elected in 2010 finish their final six weeks of work -- including addressing a raft of fiscal challenges before the next legislature begins in January.
December 17: The 538 members of the Electoral College meet in their states to cast their votes for president and vice president. Their selections -- based on the popular vote in their states -- are signed, sealed and delivered to the president of the US Senate, a role constitutionally assigned to the nation's vice president, and to the National Archives and other agencies.
December 26: Deadline for receipt of the electoral votes by the president of the Senate, Vice President Joe Biden.
End of the year: The US economy is forecast to reach its debt ceiling of $16.39 trillion, according to the Treasury, requiring a vote by Congress to raise the limit. The Treasury has announced it would continue to fund the federal government through early 2013.
January 2, 2013: Looming tax hikes and automatic spending cut challenges have converged into what Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke called a "fiscal cliff," and they go into effect if Congress does not enact fresh legislation that reduces the deficit. Federal programs, including the military, would be subjected to severe cuts as laid out in last year's Budget Control Act, and the end to Bush-era tax breaks and payroll tax cuts would raise American households' tax burden by some 20 percent, according to the Tax Policy Center.
January 3: The 113th Congress convenes, with at least 90 new lawmakers elected Tuesday among the 435 members of the House and 100 members of the Senate.
January 6: Congress, in a joint session with Vice President Joe Biden presiding, formally counts the electoral votes, and the names of the president-elect and vice president-elect are announced.
January 20: President Obama takes the oath of office in a private ceremony with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, as mandated by the US Constitution. Since the day is a Sunday, the public ceremony was shifted to Monday, which is also a holiday honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
January 21: Inauguration Day. Obama is joined outside the US Capitol by all members of Congress, his cabinet, Supreme Court justices, living former presidents -- Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush -- and perhaps upwards of one million people. In 2009, 1.8 million gathered on the National Mall on the west side of the Capitol for Obama's historic first inauguration despite frigid temperatures.
March 27: Funding for the federal government expires, after a six-month budget extension passed in September 2012. Unless lawmakers approve a new budget or vote to continue current spending levels, several government operations and public services would shut down.