Around 9:17 p.m., Biden emerged from the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and walked with the Senate leader into the Ohio Clock Corridor, past a bank of television cameras broadcasting the images live.

"Happy New Year!" he said to awaiting reporters. "Don't you love spending New Year's Eve here?"

The vice president proceeded into the Mike Mansfield conference room to meet with his former Senate colleagues for a meeting that some aides said could last at least one hour.