(CNN) - When lawmakers of both parties raised their glasses in toast of President Barack Obama at a Capitol Hill luncheon Monday, House Speaker John Boehner remarked that the room, with its poor acoustics, had been the House chamber many decades earlier - "at a time when our leaders weren't hearing each other all that well to begin with."
"But here, it's a century-and-a-half and many architectural improvements later, and we gather in the old hall to better hear one another and to renew the appeal to better angels," Boehner said. "We do so amid the rituals and symbols of unity, none more important than our flag," he continued, giving Obama and Vice President Joe Biden the flags which had earlier in the day flown over the Capitol.
His presentation as the nation's top lawmaker held more significance than a convergence of the two government branches: it was about two parties which waged bitter campaigns for federal office coming together to codify the administration.
But Republicans largely laid low on Monday, as Obama's second term opened with ceremony on the National Mall and an address in which he laid out the basics of an agenda. His biographer, David Maraniss, described the speech as one where "I could feel his heart beating."
"What he did is he took the Founding Fathers' riffs and language, Martin Luther King's language, so of King, and melded it into his own and put it into a sort of statement of action - what he wants to do in the next four years," Maraniss said on CNN.
Obama identified specific objectives, saying, "Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law" and that his administration "will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."
The late Monday banner of the Drudge Report said it all for conservatives: "1,461 More Days."
The conservative group Americans for Prosperity described Obama's address as "a harshly ideological, aggressively partisan speech more appropriate for the campaign trail than for the solemn occasion of his inaugural ceremony. His address read like a liberal laundry list with global warming at the top. Americans have rejected environmental extremism in the past and they will again."
There were no Republican former presidents in attendance, as George H.W. Bush – recently released from the hospital – stayed home, as did his son, George W. Bush, who did not provide a reason but offered Obama "best wishes and prayers on this historic day" in a statement.
Obama's 2012 White House challenger, Mitt Romney, was off of the radar, while his 2008 challenger, Sen. John McCain, was in the audience. Obama's 2008 primary rival, Hillary Clinton, has served the past four years in his administration and attended the ceremony with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Some Republican lawmakers stayed away, too, and a few who did attend the festivities expressed cautious optimism that bipartisanship might prevail.
But Rep. Peter King of New York, wasn't convinced Obama was reciprocating any bi-partisan spirit. "I guess he wants to get a little revenge," King said on CNN.
"I think he should not be as – I don't know if arrogant is the right word. He won the election. I give him credit for that, he won it, he won it fair and square, no doubt about that," he said. "But I think there's been a tone of almost like an imperious tone the last few times."
King's skepticism that even on this day steeped in tradition bi-partisanship could prevail may be onto something. Even lawmakers' own efforts to bring themselves together this season on deficit reform - by setting the countdown clock for deep, unfavorable spending cuts - failed, as their last-minute agreement to diffuse the fiscal cliff simply pushed back the deadline for averting the steep spending cuts.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell noted the contrast between legislating and ceremony, congratulating Obama in a statement which said, "Every four years on Inauguration Day, America shows the world that our major political parties can disagree with civility and mutual respect."
"The President's second term represents a fresh start when it comes to dealing with the great challenges of our day; particularly, the transcendent challenge of unsustainable federal spending and debt. Republicans are eager to work with the President on achieving this common goal, and we firmly believe that divided government provides the perfect opportunity to do so," he said.
Sen. John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Republican conference, said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that the president should "hit the reset button with Republicans and really look for solutions to the major problems, and divided government is the perfect time do it."
Others, like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, offered praise for Obama in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash.
"I think that the president did a fine job, certainly laying out what he would like to see happen as far as the future of the country. You know, there are plenty of areas of disagreement. But there also some things fundamentally we agree on," he said, such as that "this country is one of opportunity."
"Hopefully, we can bridge those differences," Cantor said, adding Obama had offered an olive branch when he "went to every table and shook every hand" at the Capitol Hill luncheon.
Obama also hosted legislative leaders from both parties for a traditional tea and coffee at the White House Monday morning before the ceremony.
Sen. John Thune called that informal morning socializing "a really important first step forward."
"Inaugurals are always times of new beginnings, fresh starts, if you will, and I hope this presents that opportunity for us. The president, if he will reach out to Republicans on Capitol Hill, and to Democrats, for that matter, I think we can do some good things together," the South Dakotan said.
"Lord knows we've got challenges ahead of us that will require presidential leadership," he said.
Others, such as Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, noted a "historic" nature of Obama's presidency. "Hopeful we'll find common ground to address our many challenges -we owe it to the next generation," she wrote in a tweet.
But will that spirit of bipartisanship be gone tomorrow, as lawmakers face the debt ceiling and other matters which have, until today, divided them?
Cantor, again, sounded optimistic: "We hope that this lasts."