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Gregg to back Kagan, Nelson a 'no'

From NBC's Ken Strickland and Msnbc.com's Carrie Dann
Retiring Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H. announced Friday that he will vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, making him the fifth Republican to indicate support for Obama's pick for the job.

"Ms. Kagan and I may have different political philosophies, but I believe that the confirmation process should be based on qualifications, not ideological litmus tests or political affiliation," he said in a written statement. "I will vote for her confirmation."

UPDATE: Gregg's announcement came shortly before Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska announced that he will NOT support Kagan, citing "her lack of a judicial record." Nelson said his constituents have raised concerns about Kagan and that he will not vote to confirm her, although he pledged not to vote with Republicans if they attempt to filibuster her confirmation vote. Nelson is the only Democrat so far to announce a planned vote against Kagan.

Gregg was one of four Republicans who voted both for Kagan’s confirmation as Solicitor General and for Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The other three – Sens. Collins, Lugar, and Snowe – have also said they will vote for Kagan. (Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina., who voted for Sotomayor and has said he will vote for Kagan in next week's confirmation vote, spoke supportively about Kagan during her SG hearings but was absent from the vote to confirm her to that post in 2009.)

Here's Gregg's full statement:

"The Senate's duty to provide advice and consent on Presidential nominations to the Supreme Court is one of its most significant constitutional responsibilities. Separate and distinct from its legislative function, the confirmation process requires the Senate to put aside politics and conduct a frank and evenhanded review of the nominee's record, qualifications and demonstrated ability to apply the law in a fair and impartial manner.

"I have met personally with Solicitor General Elena Kagan, reviewed her record, and followed her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. During this process, Ms. Kagan has pledged that she will exercise judicial restraint and decide each case that comes before her based on the law, with objectivity and without regard to her personal views. She also has served the American people under two different administrations and has a strong legal academic background. She is qualified to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Ms. Kagan and I may have different political philosophies, but I believe that the confirmation process should be based on qualifications, not ideological litmus tests or political affiliation. I will vote for her confirmation."

And here's Nelson's full statement:

“As a member of the bipartisan ‘Gang of 14,’ I will follow our agreement that judicial nominees should be filibustered only under extraordinary circumstances. If a cloture vote is held on the nomination of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court, I am prepared to vote for cloture and oppose a filibuster because, in my view, this nominee deserves an up or down vote in the Senate.

“However, I have heard concerns from Nebraskans regarding Ms. Kagan, and her lack of a judicial record makes it difficult for me to discount the concerns raised by Nebraskans, or to reach a level of comfort that these concerns are unfounded. Therefore, I will not vote to confirm Ms. Kagan’s nomination.”