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Senate Majority Leader Sen. Bill Frist pronounced Supreme Court candidate Samuel Alito “exceptionally qualified” Wednesday at the outset of debate that seemed little more than rhetorical prelude to confirmation.

Alito — who was chosen by President Bush to be the nation’s 110th justice and the replacement for retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor — already has enough support from a majority of senators to be put on the bench as early as this week.

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