The US Senate Judiciary Committee has endorsed conservative judge John Roberts to be the next Chief Justice.
Mr Roberts is widely expected to win the role, which is for life
The decision to back President Bush's choice to lead the powerful Supreme Court came in a 13-5 vote and included support from three Democrats.
The full Senate will hold a final confirmation vote next week, ahead of the court's first session on 3 October.
Mr Roberts, 50, is widely expected to be confirmed in the role, giving him the chance to lead for a generation.
He was nominated to replace long-serving Chief Justice William Rehnquist who died earlier this month.
Five Democratic senators on the panel opposed Mr Roberts. They are Dianne Feinstein, Joseph Biden, Edward Kennedy, Charles Schumer and Dick Durbin.
President Bush still has to nominate a candidate for a second position on the court, which has come about because of the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor.
Democrats are expected to put up a stronger battle when her replacement is named, analysts say.