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Justice Ginsburg becomes first woman to lie in state at the Capitol

Ginsburg's personal trainer performed pushups at her casket, while opera singer Denyce Graves sang in tribute. GOP leaders McConnell and McCarthy did not attend.
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WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the first woman and first Jewish person to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol as she was honored on Friday.

Lawmakers held a formal ceremony for Ginsburg in National Statuary Hall after her casket arrived on the plaza outside just after 9:45 a.m.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, were among those who paid their respects. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Biden's vice presidential nominee, also attended the ceremony.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., welcomed lawmakers to the arrival ceremony, which included a reflection by Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, of the conservative synagogue Adas Israel, who also recited prayers during the ceremony inside the Supreme Court on Wednesday. There were two musical selections by American operatic soprano Denyce Graves, who was accompanied by pianist Laura Ward.

While Graves performed at the ceremony, her powerful voice reverberating around the room, several women lawmakers teared up and had their hands over their hearts.

“Today we stand in sorrow, and tomorrow we the people must carry on Justice Gunsburg’s legacy. Even as our hearts are breaking we must rise with her strength and move forward, Holtzblatt said. "She was our prophet, our North Star, our strength for so very long. Now she must be permitted to rest after toiling so hard for every single one of us.”

During the viewing, members of Congress and attendees were able to pay their respects to Justice Ginsburg. While most silently circled the casket, made the sign of the cross or nodded, a few honored Ginsburg in special ways.

Bryant Johnson, longtime personal trainer of the late Justice, paused at the casket before dropping down to do push-ups in perfect form. Of course, Ginsburg was known for her love of physical fitness and videos of the octogenarian planking went viral in years prior.

Several members of Congress brought tiny guests to the small ceremony. Rep. Eric Swalwell, with his daughter, Kathryn, in tow, circled the casket for a few moments.

Kathryn, who the Swalwells call “Cricket”, clutched a children’s book called “I Look Up To… Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” by Anna Membrino.

Pelosi’s office said this week that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the ceremony would be open to invited guests only.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was not in attendance at the ceremony. A source familiar with the guest list told NBC News that McConnell is “on the list of regrets.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was also absent from the Capitol on Friday morning, although he was invited.

A formal departure ceremony was held as Ginsburg's casket left the Capitol around 12:45 p.m.

Ginsburg is the first woman and first Jewish person to lie in state at the Capitol, according to historical records. The civil rights activist Rosa Parks was the first woman to lie in honor, which is the designation for nonoffice-holding citizens and former office holders.

Ginsburg died last Friday at 87 at her home in Washington after complications from pancreatic cancer. She was the second woman justice on the high court and served for more than 27 years.

She lay in repose at the Supreme Court on Wednesday and Thursday where mourners spanning multiple generations gathered to celebrate the feminist icon. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited the casket on the top of the Supreme Court’s front steps Thursday, where he was booed and greeted by chants of "vote him out."

A private interment service will be held for Ginsburg at Arlington National Cemetery next week.