Capping an often rancorous and lengthy drama, Samuel Alito Jr. was confirmed on Tuesday by the full Senate, 58-42, after a three-month battle that culminated in a failed filibuster and, finally, a near party-line vote. It was the narrowest victory for a Supreme Court nominee since 1991, when Clarence Thomas squeaked by with a four-vote margin.

At 11:18 a.m., West Virginia Democrat Sen. Robert Byrd, supported by two canes, walked slowly through the Senate’s double doors into the now-crowded chamber to cast the final vote.

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