At the ceremony, the president joked to congressional leaders he was confident the nominations would be handled "at great dispatch."

Sen. Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidTrump presses GOP to change Senate rules Only thing Defense’s UFO probe proves is power of political favors Nevada Democrat accused of sexual harassment reconsiders retirement: report MORE (D-Nev.) also appeared to snag one of the ceremonial pens being used to sign the official nominations. Observing the move, the president offered Reid a pen from his jacket pocket instead.

The White House also announced that Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric ShinsekiEric Ken ShinsekiThe real VA scandal: No will to help veterans Dem demands Trump provide potential death toll for war with North Korea House approves VA bill, sending it to Trump MORE would be the Cabinet official sitting out the inaugural festivities, a security precaution taken for large collections of top leaders. Shinseki is sixteenth in the presidential line of succession, above only Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

Obama also signed a proclamation to commemorate the inauguration while at the Capitol.

—This post was updated at 12:50 p.m.