Kitty Felde

Atmosphere in the Room

The Senate Judiciary Hearing room was remodeled a couple of years ago. It's enormous, bigger than any federal courtroom you can imagine. There's a huge marble wall two stories high that serves as a backdrop to the Senators. And there's a mysterious hole cut in the middle of it, right below the huge United States Senate emblem on the wall. If you look closely, you can see a TV camera poking its head out to get that money shot of Judge Sotomayor.

There are press galleries cut into the two side walls, like the best seats at the opera. Two levels of cutouts in the walnut paneled walls where photographers point and shoot. Down on the floor, print reporters sit on one side of the room, TV and radio reporters on the other. The public sits in the back. There are even a few empty seats.

Senate aides rush up and down the tables of reporters, handing out copies of the opening statements. Of course there aren't enough copies.

Outside the Hart Office Building, on Constitution Avenue, a handful of activists held up signs. First the anti-abortion folks, then the NOW folks. Hand made signs in English and Spanish make it clear how they feel about the nominee.

Just spotted Nina Totenberg in a mustard yellow linen jacket. Unlike most reporters, tapping away on their laptops, she's writing in longhand.

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