The Senate confirmed John G. Roberts as the 17th chief justice of the United States Thursday, giving him the opportunity to shape the highest court for years to come.
In a vote of 78-22, a majority coming from Republicans and about half of the Democrats confirmed him in time for the next term that begins on Monday.
After the vote was cast, Roberts who was in the Roosevelt Room was greeted by President Bush. White House spokesman Scott McCellan said according to Associated Press that Roberts "nodded and expressed his appreciation in a very humble way."
With his confirmation, he will take the place of his mentor, William H. Rehnquist who passed away earlier this month, and will lead the court as the youngest chief justice since 1801.
Roberts will confront issues that are making its way to the Supreme Court, such as assisted suicide and abortion, but questions are also being raised on religion, same-sex marriage, and human-cloning.
The Democrats that opposed Roberts were still unsure on what his stance was. "At the end of the day, I have too many unanswered questions about the nominee to justify confirming him to this lifetime seat," Senate Harry Reid (D-Nev) said according to the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, many are interested to see how Roberts, who is a strong conservative, will rule on future cases. For instance, pro-life activists want to know where he stands on abortion.
In cases such as Roe v. Wade, a case that legalized abortion in 1973, Roberts told Senators at his confirmation hearings that Supreme Court decisions carry weight, but implied that Supreme Court justices can overturn rulings.
However, he assured legislators that his rulings would be guided by the facts of the case, the law and the Constitution.
Roberts is the first Supreme Court justice since 1994, arguing 39 cases as an appellate lawyer, and winning 25 of them before the Supreme Court.
Originally, he was suppose to replace the retiring Sandra Day O' Connor, but with the death of Rehnquist on Sept 3, he was elevated by President Bush to take the nomination of chief justice.
Republicans expressed approval of his confirmation saying that the justices on the court approve of him too. "There have already been indications from members of the court about their liking the fact that Judge Roberts is going to be the new chief justice," said Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa), AP reported.
Meanwhile, Democrats are shifting their concern to the next judge who will replace the O'Connor's chair, the President said that he will make his decision soon.