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US Senate Clears Way for Confirmation of High Court Nominee


The U.S. Senate has voted to end debate on the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, clearing the way for his likely confirmation Tuesday.

Senators voted 72 to 25 to end debate and send Judge Samuel Alito's nomination to the Senate floor for expected confirmation Tuesday morning in the Republican-led chamber. The vote was more than the two-thirds majority necessary to cut off debate.

It was a defeat for Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, who had sought to block the nomination through extended debate, known as a filibuster.

Kerry, who unsuccessfully sought to unseat President Bush in 2004, echoed the concerns of many Democrats who argued that Alito's record suggests that if confirmed the judge would try to undermine civil rights and abortion rights.

"In Judge Alito, we do see patterns, patterns which demonstrate a bias towards the powerful, patterns which lack a skepticism towards government overreaching, patterns which demonstrate a hostility towards the disadvantaged and the poor," he said.

Alito, if confirmed as expected, would succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is considered a moderate and who often cast the deciding vote in controversial cases, including abortion rights. Democrats fear that Alito would shift the ideological balance of the court in a more conservative direction.

While many Democrats are expected to oppose Alito Tuesday, they stopped short of voting to block the nomination from coming to a vote. They argued that the president won the race for the White House promising to put conservatives on the court, and that Alito deserved a vote.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee offered a similar argument, and chastised those who sought to block the vote:

"Continuing down this path could deter qualified men and women from putting their names forward for nomination, from volunteering to serve their country as federal judges, and it could threaten the quality Americans most desire in the judiciary, fairness and independence," said Mr. Frist.

Frist and other Republicans praised Alito's qualifications and temperament for the high court.

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

"I believe that Judge Alito is well-qualified to receive an affirmative vote by the United States Senate to be confirmed as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court," said Mr. Specter.

Still, not all Republicans agree. Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, a moderate who is running for reelection in a state that opposed President Bush in 2000 and 2004, announced he will oppose Alito.