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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, on a glide path toward Senate confirmation, said Thursday that Congress has the authority to pass laws barring discrimination based on race, gender and disability.
On the third -- and abbreviated -- day of questions, Roberts responded with a repeated "Yes, Senator" to Edward M. Kennedy's questions on whether Congress has the power to act to thwart discrimination.
A handful of Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee planned further questions for Roberts, President Bush's choice to succeed the late William H. Rehnquist as the nation's 17th chief justice. Republicans wound up their questioning on Wednesday.
Kennedy pressed Roberts, a political appointee in the Reagan and first Bush administrations and later a multimillion-dollar lawyer, about his record on minority issues and whether he could ensure the rights of society's less fortunate.
Roberts said he had argued cases in favor and against affirmative action and noted that he participated in a program to assist minority students considering law school.
"Yes, I was in an administration that was opposed to quotas," Roberts told the Massachusetts Democrat. "Opposition to quotas is not the same thing as opposition to affirmative action."
Republicans were confident that Roberts would win the committee's majority approval next week and Senate confirmation, with the backing of some moderate Democrats, before the Supreme Court term begins Oct. 3.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who voted to confirm Roberts for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, reflected the party's reservations about approving the conservative judge who, at age 50, could shape the high court for at least a generation.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," said Feinstein, who added that she had one impression of Roberts after their private meeting last month but now found him to be "very cautious, a very precise man. You're young, but obviously with staying power. I'm convinced that you'll be there for 40 years. ... That concerns me even more. It means my vote means more."
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)