A divided Senate confirmed Samuel Alito as the nation's 110th Supreme Court justice, handing President George W. Bush a win and instilling in conservatives the hope that the high court's political slant will be decidedly right-wing for years to come.
The outcome on the day of Bush's annual State of the Union address to Congress was welcome news for the president, whose approval ratings have sunk in tandem with mounting criticism of the Iraq war, a controversial domestic spying program and a series of Republican scandals. Alito's hard-fought confirmation survived contentious hearings and an abortive Democratic attempt at delay through extended debate.
Democrats voted overwhelmingly against the former federal appellate court judge. They characterized Alito throughout the confirmation process as someone who Bush viewed would entrench his conservative legacy long after he is out of office. The Constitution forbids Bush a third term after his second four years ends in 2009.