KWAME HOLMAN: Before it confirmed Samuel Alito this morning as the Supreme Court's 110th justice, the Senate's second-ranking Democrat, Illinois's Dick Durbin issued this warning.
SEN. DICK DURBIN: I fear on this January morning in the Senate chambers a chill wind blows -- a chill wind which will snuff out the dying light of Sandra Day O'Connor's Supreme Court legacy.
KWAME HOLMAN: Democrats had implored President Bush to replace retiring Justice O'Connor with someone like her, a moderate voice who would temper decisions on issues such as affirmative action and abortion.
Vermont's Patrick Leahy:
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: He could have nominated so many people that would have united this country, would have gotten 90 to 100 votes here in the United States Senate; Republicans and Democrats would have felt united; the country would have felt united.
But instead of uniting the country, the president has chosen to reward a faction of his party at the risk of dividing the country.
KWAME HOLMAN: Republicans meanwhile argued that President Bush's re-election gave him the right to nominate any one of his choosing and Alabama's Jeff Sessions said that during the confirmation hearings Judge Alito proved to be an ideal selection for the high court.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS: He was most forthcoming. He was asked more questions and grilled and grilled and answered them with such skill, fairness and reasonableness, he was unflappable in his testimony, so judicious in his approach to every question -- it was a tour de force, a really model of how a judge should perform. I could not be more proud of him and more proud of President Bush for nominating him.
KWAME HOLMAN: The president said he chose Samuel Alito because of his extensive judicial record. The 55-year-old New Jersey native spent six years as a lawyer in the Reagan Justice Department and three years as a United States attorney. For the past 15 years, Judge Alito has sat on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.
SENATOR: Welcome, judge.
SAMUEL ALITO: Thank you, Senator.
SENATOR: Like I told you right out of my window I can see the Supreme Court.
KWAME HOLMAN: So, after countless meetings with senators, more than 600 questions answered during three days of hearings and four days of Senate debate over his qualifications, final judgment came just after 11 A.M.
SEN. BILL FIRST: There's only one thing left to say. I ask for the yeahs and nays on the nomination of Samuel Alito to serve as associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
SEN. TED STEVENS: The question is, will the Senate advise and consent to the nomination of Samuel A. Alito Jr. of New Jersey to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States? The yeahs and nays have been ordered. The clerk will call the roll.
CLERK CALLING ROLL: Mr. Akaka, Mr. Akaka, no.
KWAME HOLMAN: As is Senate tradition for the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice, all members responded from their desks.
CLERK CALLING ROLL:
CLERK: Mr. Thune.
SEN. JOHN THUNE: Aye.
CLERK: Mr. Thune, aye.
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD: No.
CLERK: Mr. Dodd, no.
KWAME HOLMAN: As the roll call progressed all but Republican, Chafee of Rhode Island, voted to confirm Alito. All but four Democrats voted against.
By comparison Chief Justice John Roberts got 22 Democratic votes while Justice Clarence Thomas, confirmed in 1991, got 11.
SEN. TED STEVENS: On this vote, the ayes are 58, the nays are 42. The president's nomination of Samuel A. Alito Jr. of New Jersey to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States is confirmed.
KWAME HOLMAN: As for Judge Alito he was spotted leaving the White House, having watched the vote on television with the president. Later he was sworn in in a private Supreme Court ceremony. It's expected Justice Alito will be sitting with his new court colleagues at the State of the Union address tonight.