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Roberts sworn in as chief justice

Bush poised to name O'Connor replacement

John Roberts is sworn in as chief justice by Justice John Paul Stevens while his wife, Jane, holds a Bible.


Stephen Breyer
Confirmed 87-9 on 7/29/94

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Confirmed 96-3 on 8/3/93

Clarence Thomas
Confirmed 52-48 on 10/15/91

David H. Souter
Confirmed 90-9 on 10/2/90

Anthony M. Kennedy
Confirmed 97-0 on 2/3/88

Douglas Ginsburg
Withdrew before confirmation hearings

Robert H. Bork
Rejected 42-58 on 10/23/87

Antonin Scalia
Confirmed 98-0 on 9/17/86

William H. Rehnquist (for Chief Justice)
Confirmed 65-33 on 9/17/86

Sandra Day O'Connor
Confirmed 99-0 on 9/21/81

John Paul Stevens
Confirmed 98-0 on 12/17/75

William H. Rehnquist (for Associate Justice)
Confirmed 68-26 on 12/10/71


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Supreme Court
George W. Bush
John Roberts

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- John G. Roberts Jr. was sworn in Thursday as the 17th chief justice of the United States after winning Senate approval with a solid majority.

Roberts, 50, was given the oath of office by the senior associate justice, John Paul Stevens, at a ceremony in the White House's East Room.

The ceremony was witnessed by President Bush, six other justices of the Supreme Court, Roberts' wife and the couple's two children, as well as members of the Senate and other invited guests. (Watch: Roberts is sworn into office)

"The Senate has confirmed a man with an astute mind and a kind heart," President Bush said before the ceremony.

Roberts replaces the Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who died September 3 after a battle with thyroid cancer.

Speaking without notes, Roberts first thanked Stevens -- a 30-year veteran of the court -- and then said to Bush, "There is no way to repay the confidence you have shown in me other than to do the best job I possibly can do, and I'll try to do that every day."

Roberts added, "I'll try to ensure, in the discharge of my responsibilities, that, with the help of my colleagues, I can pass on to my children's generation a charter of self government as strong and as vibrant as the one that Chief Justice Rehnquist passed on to us."

The ceremony took place less than four hours after Roberts was confirmed to the post in a 78-22 vote in the Senate, ending a 10-week roller coaster ride for the federal appeals judge.

He is to go through an investiture ceremony Monday at 9:15 in the courtroom, prior to the beginning of oral arguments for the court's next term.

Watching the vote

Roberts watched the voting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House accompanied by staff who assisted him during the confirmation process, including former Sen. Fred Thompson. Roberts' wife watched the vote from the Senate gallery.

He was originally nominated to fill the vacancy created by the pending retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. But following the death of Rehnquist, Roberts was quickly named by President Bush to take over the court's top spot.

All 55 Republicans were united in their support. They were joined by 22 Democrats and one independent senator. Twenty-two Democrats voted no.

In a sign of the importance of the event, senators upheld tradition by voting from their seats as their names were called. Lawmakers usually are free to mill about the floor or leave the chamber.

The vote was never in doubt, despite misgivings from some Democrats that Roberts would be too conservative.

Kennedy not convinced

"I hope I am proven wrong about John Roberts," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, in a floor speech before the vote. "I have been proven wrong before on my confirmation votes. I regret my vote to confirm Justice Scalia, even though he, too, like Judge Roberts was a nice person and a very smart Harvard lawyer."

Kennedy was also among five Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote against Roberts. Others voting in opposition included Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Dianne Feinstein of California and Evan Bayh from Roberts' home state of Indiana.

Democrats voting yes included Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Max Baucus of Montana. (Read how the Democrats voted)

"I do not know, none of us do, the mark that Chief Justice Roberts will leave on the court," said Sen. Mitch McConnell R-Kentucky. "With his many fine qualities he may be a great administrator, he may leave some great reform of our court system, he may revolutionize some area of law -- but he will be a successful leader."

Next nominee

With Roberts widely expected confirmation, attention on Capitol Hill shifts to the president's choice to replace retiring O'Connor. (View a gallery of possible Supreme Court nominees)

At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan called on the Senate to treat Bush's next nominee in the same "civil and dignified way" Roberts was treated.

"The president will nominate someone that all Americans can be proud of, someone who is highly qualified to serve on the highest court in our land," McClellan said.

"While this nomination did not warrant an attempt to block this nominee on the floor of the Senate, the next one might," warned Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, in a speech Wednesday. "I hope and pray the president chooses to unite, rather than divide -- that he chooses consensus over confrontation."

Democrats' frustration

Some Democrats complained that Roberts did not adequately answer their questions, after Roberts repeatedly deflected inquiries by insisting he could not comment on issues that might come before the high court.

Because O'Connor has been a moderate swing vote on the closely divided court, the battle over her replacement could prove more contentious than the comparatively mild tussle over Roberts' confirmation.

Bush administration officials close to the selection process have told CNN that Bush will announce his nominee to replace O'Connor as soon as Friday.

The focus of the search process has been on women and minority candidates, Bush sources confirm, although White House advisers are holding their cards close to the vest.

Roberts, a native of Buffalo, New York, grew up in Indiana before going east to Harvard for undergraduate studies and law school. A Roman Catholic, he is married with two small children.

Roberts was principal deputy solicitor general during the administration of Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, presenting the administration's arguments before the high court. His boss at the time was Kenneth Starr, who later became the Whitewater special prosecutor involved in former President Bill Clinton's impeachment case.

Roberts also served in the Reagan administration, first as special assistant to Attorney General William French Smith and then as associate White House counsel. He was a law clerk for Rehnquist.

Roberts was confirmed in 2003 to the D.C. Circuit, considered the most influential federal court outside of the Supreme Court. However, approval of his nomination was delayed two years by Senate Democrats when they gained control of the chamber after Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont quit the Republican Party and became an Independent.

Bill Mears of CNN's Washington Bureau contributed to this report.

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