Onlookers gathered into a tightly packed conference room Jan. 28. Press representatives sat with congressional aides.
A mother ushered her two young sons to a seat close to the front, and people grew increasingly restless as the scheduled start time came and went without so much as an appearance by the Senate committee members.
Finally, more than half an hour after the meeting was scheduled to begin, senators piled in.
Presiding Senator Robert Menendez, D-N.J., apologized for being late because of voting in a debate on the controversial confirmation of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
The stage was a confirmation hearing by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The reminder of Bernanke’s experience was a sobering one for the four witnesses, and their families behind them, who came to testify before Congress.
They included Ian H. Solomon, nominee to be executive director of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development; Leocadia I. Zak, nominee to be director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency; Walter C. Jones, nominee to be executive director of the African Development Bank; and Douglas A. Rediker, nominee to be alternate executive director of the International Monetary Fund.
The tone of the meeting was cordial and polite. Each witness fielded questions from the senators in attendance. They prefaced all their answers by thanking the senator for the question — a refreshing change of pace, joked one senator.
Yet their fates were all but certain — they make up four of the 176 persons nominated for positions by President Obama who have yet to be confirmed
The road to their confirmation could meet more roadblocks and delays as Congress gets to work on bills for larger issues, including a jobs bill and possibly another attempt at health care legislation.
At the end of the hearing, despite having earned the respect of the senators in attendance, there was no clear guidance about when the four nominations could expect to be confirmed.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., offered a closing statement asserting that he was impressed with the qualifications and commitment to service of the applicants before him.
“That’s a bipartisan note we can all agree on,” Sen. Menendez replied.
It could be the only one.