John Roberts Confirmed As Nation’s 17th Supreme Court Chief Justice

Senate approves Bush's nominee in 78-22 vote.

A two-month process, uncharacteristically devoid of political venom, concluded Thursday morning with the confirmation of U.S. Circuit Court Judge John G. Roberts Jr. as the country’s 17th Supreme Court chief justice.

The Senate affirmed President Bush’s pick for the post, left vacant earlier this month by the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, in a 78-22 vote — with all of those opposed to Roberts’ selection being Democrats. Twenty-two Democrats and one independent senator approved the Roberts appointment.

Bush nominated Roberts in July, first as the successor to retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, following her announcement that same month that she’d be stepping down from the bench after 24 years of service (see “Bush Nominates Federal Judge John Roberts For Supreme Court” ). Roberts will be sworn in at 3 p.m. on Thursday (September 29).

With the Roberts appointment official, it’s expected that the president will move fast to fill the second Supreme Court vacancy; an announcement on that nomination, according to CNN, could come within the next 24 hours (see “Bush’s Supreme Court Picks Could Tilt The Scales On Abortion, Gay Marriage” ). But according to White House spokesperson Scott McClellan, Bush will take some time to “celebrate” Roberts’ addition to the nation’s highest court, and “continue to move forward” toward the selection of a “highly qualified” candidate — “someone that all Americans can be proud of.”

While the Democratic senatorial bloc did little to hinder Roberts’ path to the Supreme Court, New York Senator Charles Schumer on Wednesday cautioned that Bush’s next pick could face tougher opposition. “I hope and pray the president chooses to unite, rather than divide — that he chooses consensus over confrontation,” he said.

According to CNN, McClellan urged the Senate to take the same “civil and dignified” approach with Bush’s next nominee.

The 50-year-old Roberts had served on the Washington, D.C., U.S. Court of Appeals for more than two years before being selected by Bush for a Supreme Court seat. His résumé includes stints with the White House counsel’s office and the U.S. Department of Justice; he had clerked for Rehnquist before Rehnquist’s promotion to chief justice. Roberts, a Harvard Law School graduate, has argued 39 cases before the high court.