A US Senate panel has voted to approve President George W Bush's Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito.
Republicans have praised Samuel Alito's judicial experience
All 10 Republicans on the judiciary committee backed the conservative judge, while all eight Democrats opposed Mr Alito.
The nomination now goes to the Republican-led Senate, which is expected to confirm Mr Alito, although Democrats could seek to block him.
He would replace a judge who often held the swing vote on key issues.
Correspondents say the Bush administration is on course to reshape the court by creating a conservative majority.
This reshaping could have profound effects on the US that will last for decades, says the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington.
The court has the power to strike down laws passed by Congress and to rule on key issues like abortion and gay rights.
The 18-member Senate Judiciary Committee's vote on the new nominee followed his appearance before the panel earlier this month.
The senators questioned Mr Alito on issues including his record as a judge, and his views on abortion and presidential authority.
Republicans said on Tuesday that Mr Alito was "one of the most qualified nominees ever".
Conservative party members and anti-abortion campaigners have welcomed his nomination.
The Republicans hold a 55 to 45 seat majority in the 100-seat Senate, which correspondents say is likely to confirm Mr Alito.
However, they say that Democrats are expected to try to persuade their senators to vote against him on the Senate floor.
Democrats say they are afraid Mr Alito will swing the court too far to the right, voicing concerns he will use his position on the court to overturn long-standing civil rights.
They say they are particularly concerned about that in cases involving abortion, affirmative action and the death penalty.
But in his testimony to the Senate panel, Mr Alito said he would approach any abortion case at the court "with an open mind".
On presidential powers, he said he agreed with a statement by outgoing Justice O'Connor, that a state of war "is not a blank cheque for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens".
The justices of the Supreme Court are appointed until they die, resign or are impeached.
Mr Bush's earlier choice for the post, lawyer Harriet Miers, withdrew when conservatives refused to support her.