Others at the hearing weren’t sure what Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) was talking about, and the reason soon became clear. (U.S. Senate )

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) was prepped for an appropriations hearing on the defense budget when he took his turn Wednesday afternoon, flipping papers on his lap, reading from them and commending the witness for his department’s prompt response to a letter Coats had sent about a military accounting office in his home state.

It was all fairly innocuous except for one problem: Coats was in the wrong hearing.

After finishing a lengthy opening to his question, a staffer slipped Coats a piece of paper. Coats read it to himself, looked up, and said, “I just got a note saying I’m at the wrong hearing.”

“Well, that would explain why I didn’t know anything about this letter,” said David Cohen, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. The room erupted in laughter.

Coats, who served in the Senate from 1989 to 1999, was U.S. ambassador to Germany and then returned to the Senate in 2011. He said that had never happened to him before. He saw familiar faces, he said, and thought he was in the right place. (Coats is on the Appropriations Committee, but he showed up at a hearing of the wrong subcommittee.)

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) attended the wrong committee hearing on Wednesday. (U.S. Senate)

“I’ll go try to find out where I’m supposed to be,” Coats said. (You can watch a clip online at washingtonpost.com/blogs/

Coats did find his place, in a hearing room down the hall in the Dirksen Building, where the meeting was set for an hour later. There, Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Mike McCord knew all about the letter.

A belated apology

What’s the statute of limitations on saying you’re sorry?

When Billy Crystal asked in “When Harry Met Sally” it was 10 years, but Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is hoping his fellow “Saturday Night Live” alum was off by a few decades.

The funnyman-turned-serious-senator has some apologizing he’d like to do on behalf of his Senate predecessors.

In the early part of the last century, during the rush of European immigration to the United States, Congress stripped citizenship from any American woman who married a foreigner. The little-known Expatriation Act of 1907 stayed on the books until 1940, so even after women won the right to vote in 1920, those who were married to a non-American could not exercise that newfound right.

Franken would like the Senate to offer, through legislation, its sympathy and regret for passing a law “incompatible with and antithetical to the core principle that all persons, regardless of gender, race, religion, or ethnicity, are created equal.”

Franken’s office first learned of this blemish in U.S. history from a constituent who was seeking posthumous citizenship for his grandmother. She lost hers when she married a Swedish man in 1914. Franken’s office couldn’t accomplish that, so is seeking an official apology as the next-best commendation.

The Senate doesn’t make a habit of seeking absolution, but this would not be the first time it formally recognized a mistake from America’s past.

In 2011, the Senate expressed regret for the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which discriminated against Chinese immigrants.

In 2009, the Senate apologized for slavery and racial segregation of African Americans.

Also in 2009, the Senate apologized to Native Americans for “violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States.”

In 2005, the Senate apologized for lynchings and for not having outlawed them.

Makes you wonder what we’ll be apologizing for 100 years from now.

Synchronize watches!

Seems Janice Jacobs’s surprise send-off Thursday morning took planning and subterfuge worthy of Eisenhower’s landing at Normandy.

On the assistant secretary of state for consular affairs’ last day in office, about 200 applauding, cheering staffers lined the 41 / 2-block route from her bureau’s building on F Street NW to her office at the State Department.

Don Heflin, chief of the State Department’s visa office, floated the proposal last week, we’re told, along with a five-point implementation plan.

First, he instructed, they had to “create a ruse to keep” her in the bureau for a half-hour after the usual morning staff meeting so everyone could get ready. The visa office would host a “farewell coffee,” Heflin told other officials, and “that should do the trick.”

Second, five offices within the bureau would start rounding up 60-plus people per block to line the route.

Third, he instructed, “maintain opsec” (operation security) — “not a word to Janice, no use of e-mail distribution lists she might be on.”

Fourth, the offices were given block assignments, with the visa office taking the last leg along 21st Street NW as she headed to her favored entrance to the State Department.

Fifth, office heads should “begin exfiltrating people” to their designated blocks as soon as Jacobs went upstairs for the coffee. Heflin would e-mail coordinators “as soon as she comes upstairs,” and the visa office would “make sure that Janice is not early.”

A 90-minute “happy hour” was scheduled in a conference room “to make posters with the leadership and management tenets” of the office, such as “Think Globally,” “Lead by Example” and “Follow Creatively.”

Jacobs, wearing a tan trench coat and sneakers, carrying a Blue Cross-Blue Shield tote bag and walking quickly, appeared a bit stunned.

Return those T-shirts

We have a new winner in the Loop Obamacare Contest to predict the total enrollees in the Affordable Care Act.

When we announced the winners Wednesday, we said no one guessed that the administration would reach its goal of 7 million enrollees, much less hit the 7.1 million figure that President Obama announced Tuesday.

But we missed an entry that had been submitted by Alicia Payne, a homemaker from Spotsylvania, Va.

Payne’s admittedly “rather optimistic” guess was 7,141,973, which she said she picked because she was married on 7/14/1973.)

She reminded us Thursday of her entry, but we couldn’t find her e-mail anywhere. The IT people, when they found it, told us the problem was “some undiagnosed technical glitch.”

So congrats to Ms. Payne. Apparently there are some optimists out there after all.

The aforementioned

The Loop Quote of the Week? No contest. Sen. Dan Coats: “I just got a note saying I’m at the wrong hearing.” (See above.)

— With Colby Itkowitz

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter:@InTheLoopWP.