WASHINGTON - (AP) - The Senate confirmed Sonia Sotomayor Thursday as the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court.

The vote was 68-31 for Sotomayor, President Barack Obama's first high court nominee. She becomes the 111th justice and just the third woman to serve.

Said the president Thursday after the vote: "With this historic vote, the Senate has affirmed that Justice Sotomayor has the intellect, the temperament, the history, the integrity and the independence of mind to ably serve on our nation's highest court."

Democrats praised the 55-year-old Sotomayor as a mainstream moderate. But most Republicans voted against her, saying she'd bring personal bias and a liberal agenda to the bench.

Senators took the rare step of assembling at their desks on the Senate floor for the historic occasion, rising from their seats to cast their votes.

She replaces retiring Justice David Souter, a liberal named by a Republican president, and she is not expected to alter the court's ideological split.

Still, Republicans and Democrats were deeply at odds over confirming Sotomayor, and the battle over her nomination highlighted profound philosophical disagreements that will shape future battles over the court's makeup as Obama looks to another likely vacancy - perhaps more than one- while he's in the White House.

Sotomayor will be sworn in Saturday by Chief Justice John Roberts.

The Senate chamber was heavy with history as senators cast their votes in turn. Sen. Robert Byrd, 91, a Democrat and the longest-serving senator who has been in frail health following a long hospitalization for infections earlier this year, was brought in in a wheelchair when it was his turn, making just his second return to the Senate since his release in June to cast his vote forSotomayor.

In the final tally, just nine Republicans joined majority Democrats and the Senate's two independents to support Sotomayor's confirmation.