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Ginsburg unanimously approved by Senate panel

By
MICHAEL KIRKLAND

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously Thursday in favor of the nomination of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, clearing the way for the full Senate to approve her as the second woman to serve on the high court.

The vote was 18-0, with Judiciary Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Del., casting the final yes vote: 'Aye, thank the Lord.'

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Biden had said earlier he would try to have the full Senate vote on her confirmation before it recesses for the summer next week.

Very little opposition is expected on the Senate floor to the nomination, though some senators may vote against her to protest her support for abortion rights.

Ginsburg, 60, serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She was nominated to the Supreme Court June 14 by President Clinton to replace retired Justice Byron White.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., wearing a baseball cap because he's still recovering from surgery to remove a benign tumor, provided some of the only drama prior to the committee vote.

'I have had substantial concern about the responsiveness of Judge Ginsburg,' Specter said.

Specter said at some point the Senate was 'going to have to get up on its hind legs' and vote against a Supreme Court nominee who appeared unresponsive to questions before the Senate Judiciary Committe.

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'The only recourse (for the Senate to punish an unresponsive witness) is to vote no and reject the nominee,' he said.

But towards the end of his lengthy statement, Specter softened his tone.

'In light of her record, not withstanding my concerns, I'm voting yes.'

Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., also listed lengthy concerns about Ginsburg, particularly her potential views on abortion and the death penalty.

He was the only member of the judiciary committee to vote against her when President Jimmy Carter nominated her to the federal bench in 1980.

But Thurmond said, 'Judge Ginsburg is a person of integrity,' and voted to support her.

The committee session Thursday morning was not without humor.

After listening to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, quote figures that showed Ginsburg voted many times with Judge Robert Bork when he served on the D.C. Circuit, Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, D-Ohio, said he was 'almost convinced to vote against her.'

Metzenbaum is one of the Senate's most fiery liberals.

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