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US: Bush makes court more conservative

The Senate voted 58-42 to approve Bush's nomination of conservative judge Samuel Alito to a lifetime appointment to the nine-member Supreme Court. Alito, 55, has served as a federal judge since 1990.

Washington - The US Senate Tuesday handed President George W. Bush a huge, but not surprising, victory as he heads into his most important speech of the year - the state of the union address.

The Senate voted 58-42 to approve Bush's nomination of conservative judge Samuel Alito to a lifetime appointment to the nine-member Supreme Court. Alito, 55, has served as a federal judge since 1990.

Bush hopes that Alito will give the highest court a more conservative leaning. Alito will replace Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman ever to serve on the court and the deciding vote on many social issues, such as the legalization of abortion and changing rulings on the death penalty.

The Senate victory offered an antidote to Bush's most difficult year of his five-year presidency that saw increasing criticism of the war in Iraq, mounting resistance in Congress to Bush on issues ranging from stem cell research to social security and growing ethical questions within the Republican party, including a lobbying scandal.

Bush will go before the joint Congress at 9 p.m. Tuesday evening to lay out his main foreign and domestic policy goals for 2006. He has indicated he will promote a more positive tone in US politics. With congressional elections due in November, reviving political momentum is crucial for Bush and his centre-right Republicans.

Perhaps more importantly, he is expected to address America's dependence on foreign energy sources, White House officials said Monday. In an interview with CBS news, Bush indicated he wants to advance the development of ethanol from corn, and fuel made from the waste part of plant crops.

In the vote on the Supreme Court appointment, Alito prevailed in a largely partisan vote 58-42, with one member of Bush's Republican Party voting against him and four opposition Democrats supporting.

Democrats had taken the rare step of trying to stall the confirmation vote by indefinitely extending debate, a move that failed Monday.

Democrats are concerned not only that Alito could help roll back legalized abortion, an issue which is repeatedly brought before the court, but also about former statements he has made in support of fewer limitations on presidential power.

O'Connor, who has supported abortion rights, announced her intention to step down from the court last year but decided to stay on until a replacement had been put in place.

Alito is Bush's second nomination to the Supreme Court, after John Roberts was approved last year to replace the late chief justice William Rehnquist.

Opponents view Alito as part of a Bush plan to engineer a historic shift to the right in the Supreme Court, whose nine justices are appointed for life and have huge influence over policy on everyday matters from civil rights to the environment.

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Posted in: News by NewsBot on January 31, 2006 @ 12:00 AM

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