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Senate Panel Approves Supreme Chief Justice Nominee

The Senate Judiciary Committee, as expected, has voted to send the nomination of Judge John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the United States to the full Senate for confirmation.

The Republican-led committee voted 13 to five to approve Judge Roberts' nomination, with Democrats divided.

Senator Ted Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, was among those who opposed the nomination. He had concerns about Judge Roberts' record on abortion and civil rights during his tenure as a lawyer for the Reagan administration.

"The values and perspectives displayed over and over again in his record cast doubt on his view of voting rights, women's rights, civil rights and disability rights," said Mr. Kennedy.

But Senator Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, supported the nomination.

"Judge Roberts' impeccable legal credentials, his reputation and record as a fair-minded person, and his commitment to modesty and respect for precedent, have persuaded me that he will not bring an ideological agenda to the position of Chief Justice of the United States, and that he should be confirmed," he said.

Committee chairman, Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said he hoped Judge Roberts would end the sharply divided opinions on the high court.

"I think he has a real sense for building a consensus," he said.

Many cases under the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, whom Judge Roberts would succeed if confirmed by the full Senate, were decided with a five-to-four majority.

At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan welcomed the committee action.

"Judge Roberts is going to make an outstanding Chief Justice and someone the American people can be very proud of on the bench," he said.

Senator Specter told the committee he expects President Bush to announce a successor to retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor following expected confirmation of Judge Roberts by the Senate next week.