WASHINGTON (AP) – Samuel Alito coasted toward probable confirmation as the 110th Supreme Court justice yesterday, with the only question after 18 hours of grueling Senate interrogation being how many Democrats would support him.

Andrew Skidmore
Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito speaks during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday.
(AP photo)

Alito said nothing to undermine his solid support by the Senate’s majority Republicans during three days of aggressive questioning by Democrats who challenged his credibility, judicial philosophy and independence.

“I am my own person, with whatever abilities I have and whatever limitations I have,” Alito declared as he wrapped up his final public appearance before senators begin voting on his nomination to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Democrats contend the former Reagan administration lawyer is likely to swing the court to the right in replacing the centrist O’Connor, who has provided decisive votes on such important issues as abortion, capital punishment and affirmative action.

Judiciary Committee senators will meet on Tuesday to begin debating the 55-year-old federal judge’s nomination. Chairman Arlen Specter (R

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