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Roberts Confirmed As Chief Justice

John Roberts was confirmed as chief justice on Thursday, with a commanding majority of the Senate backing him to lead the Supreme Court through turbulent social issues that will affect generations to come.

The vote was 78-22 to confirm Roberts, a 50-year-old U.S. Appeals judge, as the successor to the late William H. Rehnquist, who died earlier this month. All of the Senate's majority Republicans, and about half of the Democrats, voted for Roberts.

After lunch with President Bush, Roberts was to be quickly sworn in at a White House ceremony at 3 p.m ET so he can take his seat in time for the new court session Monday. Justice John Paul Stevens will administer the oath of office.

Roberts is the first new Supreme Court justice since 1994. He has the potential of leading the court for decades. Not since John Marshall, confirmed in 1801 at 45, has there been a younger chief justice.

Under Roberts, justices will tackle issues like assisted suicide, campaign finance law and abortion this year, with questions about religion, same-sex marriage, the government's war on terrorism and human cloning looming in the future.

"With the confirmation of John Roberts, the Supreme Court will embark upon a new era in its history, the Roberts era," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., whose 55 GOP members voted unanimously for the conservative judge. "And for many years to come, long after many of us have left public service, the Roberts court will be deliberating on some of the most difficult and fundamental questions of U.S. law."

Twenty-two Democrats opposed Roberts, saying he could turn out to be as conservative as justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court anchors on the right.

"At the end of the day, I have too many unanswered questions about the nominee to justify confirming him to this lifetime seat," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

"It's a win and [President Bush] really needed this win given all of his troubles," said CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger.

"Now everybody is looking towards the next Supreme Court nominee and this president can go one of two ways. He can go the John Roberts route, which allows him to get Democratic support; or go a more conservative route, play to his political base and have a fight.

Mr. Bush was expected to choose a nominee to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor quickly, though CBS News correspondent John Roberts reports that White House sources do not expect an announcement this week.

Anti-abortion and abortion rights activists both have their hopes pinned on Roberts, a former government lawyer in the Reagan and first Bush administrations. While Roberts is solidly conservative and his wife, Jane, volunteers for Feminists for Life, both sides were eager to see how he will vote on abortion cases.

Roberts told senators during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings that past Supreme Court rulings carry weight, including the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in 1973. He also said he agreed with the 1965 Supreme Court ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut that established the right of privacy in the sale and use of contraceptives.

But he tempered that by saying Supreme Court justices can overturn rulings.

During four days of sometimes testy questioning by Democrats, Roberts refused to hint how he would rule on cases.

"If the Constitution says that the little guy should win, then the little guy's going to win in the court before me," Roberts told senators. "But if the Constitution says that the big guy should win, well then the big guy's going to win because my obligation is to the Constitution."

Over and over, he has assured lawmakers his rulings would be guided by his understanding of the facts of cases, the law and the Constitution, not by his personal views. "My faith and my religious beliefs do not play a role," said Roberts, who is Catholic.
Roberts' confirmation brings the number of Catholics on the court to a historic high of four. The Roman Catholic Church strongly opposes abortion.

All of the Senate's Republicans showered praise on Roberts. "If being intelligent, brilliant, a superb lawyer, the greatest legal mind of your generation and well qualified is not enough, what is?" said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that recommended his confirmation on a 13-5 vote.

Democrats, even as they complained about his Reagan-era opinions and the White House's refusal to release his paperwork from the George H.W. Bush administration, acknowledged his brilliance and judicial demeanor.

"It is hard to see Judge Roberts as a judicial activist who would place ideological purity or a particular agenda above or ahead the need for thoughtful legal reasoning," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., one of the Democrats supporting Roberts.

Roberts grew up in Long Beach, Ind., working summers in the same steel mill where his father was an electrical engineer.

After graduating with honors from Harvard University — both as an undergraduate and in law school — he clerked for Rehnquist on the Supreme Court and became a prominent lawyer and judge in Washington.

Democrats were already warning the White House not to nominate a conservative ideologue for his second nominee.

"While this nomination did not warrant an attempt to block the nominee on the floor of the Senate, the next one might," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said.


Voting "yes" were 22 Democrats, 55 Republicans and one independent.
Voting "no" were 22 Democrats.

Alabama=Sessions (R) Yes; Shelby (R) Yes.

Alaska= Murkowski (R) Yes; Stevens (R) Yes.

Arizona= Kyl (R) Yes; McCain (R) Yes.

Arkansas=Lincoln (D) Yes; Pryor (D) Yes.

California=Boxer (D) No; Feinstein (D) No.

Colorado=Allard (R) Yes; Salazar (D) Yes.

Connecticut=Dodd (D) Yes; Lieberman (D) Yes.

Delaware= Biden (D) No; Carper (D) Yes.

Florida= Martinez (R) Yes; Nelson (D) Yes.

Georgia=Chambliss (R) Yes; Isakson (R) Yes.

Hawaii=Akaka (D) No; Inouye (D) No.

Idaho=Craig (R) Yes; Crapo (R) Yes.

Illinois= Durbin (D) No; Obama (D) No.

Indiana= Bayh (D) No; Lugar (R) Yes.

Iowa= Grassley (R) Yes; Harkin (D) No.

Kansas= Brownback (R) Yes; Roberts (R) Yes.

Kentucky=Bunning (R) Yes; McConnell (R) Yes.

Louisiana=Landrieu (D) Yes; Vitter (R) Yes.

Maine=Collins (R) Yes; Snowe (R) Yes.

Maryland=Mikulski (D) No; Sarbanes (D) No.

Massachusetts=Kennedy (D) No; Kerry (D) No.

Michigan=Levin (D) Yes; Stabenow (D) No.

Minnesota=Coleman (R) Yes; Dayton (D) No.

Mississippi=Cochran (R) Yes; Lott (R) Yes.

Missouri=Bond (R) Yes; Talent (R) Yes.

Montana=Baucus (D) Yes; Burns (R) Yes.

Nebraska=Hagel (R) Yes; Nelson (D) Yes.

Nevada=Ensign (R) Yes; Reid (D) No.

New Hampshire=Gregg (R) Yes; Sununu (R) Yes.

New Jersey=Corzine (D) No; Lautenberg (D) No.

New Mexico=Bingaman (D) Yes; Domenici (R) Yes.

New York=Clinton (D) No; Schumer (D) No.

North Carolina=Burr (R) Yes; Dole (R) Yes.

North Dakota=Conrad (D) Yes; Dorgan (D) Yes.

Ohio=DeWine (R) Yes; Voinovich (R) Yes.

Oklahoma=Coburn (R) Yes; Inhofe (R) Yes.

Oregon=Smith (R) Yes; Wyden (D) Yes.

Pennsylvania=Santorum (R) Yes; Specter (R) Yes.

Rhode Island=Chafee (R) Yes; Reed (D) No.

South Carolina=DeMint (R) Yes; Graham (R) Yes.

South Dakota=Johnson (D) Yes; Thune (R) Yes.

Tennessee=Alexander (R) Yes; Frist (R) Yes.

Texas=Cornyn (R) Yes; Hutchison (R) Yes.

Utah=Bennett (R) Yes; Hatch (R) Yes.

Vermont=Jeffords (I) Yes; Leahy (D) Yes.

Virginia=Allen (R) Yes; Warner (R) Yes.

Washington=Cantwell (D) No; Murray (D) Yes.

West Virginia=Byrd (D) Yes; Rockefeller (D) Yes.

Wisconsin=Feingold (D) Yes; Kohl (D) Yes.

Wyoming=Enzi (R) Yes; Thomas (R) Yes.

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