Senate votes to confirm Ginsburg for high court She will be sworn Tuesday, becoming 2nd woman justice

August 04, 1993|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- The Senate speedily approved Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg yesterday to be the second woman and the 107th justice to serve on the Supreme Court, with only three senators opposing her because of her views on abortion rights.

The first justice to be selected by a Democratic president in 26 years, the 60-year-old federal appeals court judge is to take two required oaths Tuesday, and apparently will then start work as a justice even though the court is in summer recess.

A White House ceremony is scheduled for one oath, with Judge Ginsburg taking the second oath in a private event at the Supreme Court. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who is traveling in Sweden but is to return home Monday, will administer both oaths.

In its history, the court has had only one woman justice -- Sandra Day O'Connor, named by then President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Judge Ginsburg is the first Jewish justice in 24 years. She will succeed retired Justice Byron R. White.

Justice-designate Ginsburg is expected to be allied much of the time with the court's now-dominant bloc of moderate conservatives: Justices O'Connor, Anthony M. Kennedy and David H. Souter. It remains unclear, however, how she would line up, ideologically, within that group of "centrist" justices.

Pioneered women's rights

Judge Ginsburg, a former law professor and a pioneering women's rights lawyer who persuaded the Supreme Court to make historic shifts toward women's equality in the law, has been a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals here for 13 years after being named by President Jimmy Carter. She has the least liberal voting record of any of the Carter nominees on that court.

Yesterday's 96-3 final Senate vote to confirm her nomination brought to a close an unusually rapid process for a Supreme Court nominee before the Senate.

President Clinton took 12 weeks to select a nominee, but the Senate acted after just seven weeks -- faster than it had acted on any Supreme Court choice in many years.

Although Judge Ginsburg's nomination did not stir any significant controversy, she did draw some opposition because she was the first nominee to the court to endorse openly a constitutional right to seek an abortion.

That endorsement led three Republican senators who oppose abortion -- Jesse Helms of North Carolina, Don Nickles of Oklahoma and Robert C. Smith of New Hampshire -- to vote against her on the final tally.

When the Senate debated the nomination Monday, Mr. Helms became the only senator to speak out against her before the final vote. He said he had been tentatively inclined to vote for her because he had thought of her as "a pleasant, intellectual liberal."

On examining her record more closely over the weekend, however, Mr. Helms said, he found some of her views -- especially on abortion -- to be "180 degrees in opposition" to his.

'Outrageously simplistic'

He accused her of taking an "outrageously simplistic and callous position on abortion" before the Senate Judiciary Committee. His opposition apparently led Mr. Nickles and Mr. Smith to add their no votes to his.

One senator, Donald W. Riegle Jr., D-Mich., was absent, attending a funeral in his home state.

Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes were among 55 Democrats who voted for Judge Ginsburg. A total of 41 Republicans supported her.

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