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After nearly five minutes of confusion, a Secret Service agent announced that Biden would be coming from Boehner’s office. To the relief of the anxious staff, Biden emerged with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and was reintroduced to the room.
The inaugural ceremony was nearly flawless. Inauguration attendees who also attended the event four years ago called Monday’s weather balmy compared with the frigid temperatures of 2009. As early morning turned into early afternoon, however, the sun disappeared behind the clouds and those with down jackets and woolen socks were among the fortunate.
Lawmakers were generally dressed either for the occasion or for the elements.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., had a fur-trimmed coat, while Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., went with slacks, sensible sneakers and a red windbreaker. On the Senate side, John McCain, R-Ariz., sported sunglasses despite the overcast skies. Two Western senators, Democrat Max Baucus of Montana and Republican Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, who serve as their parties’ leaders on the Finance Committee, sported cowboy hats.
As members walked onto the West Terrace platform shortly before 11 a.m., old-timers and newbies alike were relishing the excitement.
With camera phones commonplace, many lawmakers snapped pictures of each other or of the vast crowds lining the National Mall. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., took pictures on their phones and compared shots.
Many members, such as Reps. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Jim McGovern, D-Mass., waved emphatically at friends in the seats below. After Obama took the ceremonial oath of office, Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., waved one glove in the air as the crowd erupted into applause.
Amid celebrities such as actors Nick Cannon and Angela Bassett and musicians Katy Perry, John Mayer and Stevie Wonder, freshman Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, worked the crowds in the hours leading up to the main event, posing for photos and shaking hands.
The self-professed fans, however, were not uniformly sure who he was. Many mistook him for his twin brother, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, who delivered a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention last summer. Rep. Castro was gracious with those who approached him and tried gently to correct those who called him “Mayor Castro” and congratulated him on a “terrific speech” — though sometimes he did not.
After lunch, shortly after 2:30 p.m., a small group of staffers gathered outside the East Front carriage entrance on the House side of the Capitol in anticipation of the start of the inaugural parade.
While Capps and Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., went across the street to enjoy a better view from a patch of sun, House Administration Chairwoman Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., and Rep. John L. Mica, R-Fla., stood in the shade near the south door to watch the pageantry.
Inconspicuous amid the pounding of military drums and the stealth movements of the Secret Service, the Obamas and Bidens were in their cars before anyone from far away could notice they had left.
As the East Front cleared out, Mica, who had been taking camera phone photos, let out a small sigh.
“Show’s over,” he said.
Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.