WBEZ | Mark Kirk http://www.wbez.org/tags/mark-kirk Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Sen. Kirk cancels meeting of anti-gay group http://www.wbez.org/news/sen-kirk-cancels-meeting-anti-gay-group-109167 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/KIRK%20AP%20%282%29.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 429px; float: left;" title="Illinois Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk speaks at a Chicago press conference in August. (AP)" />Illinois Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is taking heat for refusing a Capitol Hill meeting space to a socially conservative group his office suggests has a &ldquo;hateful agenda&rdquo; against homosexuals.</p><p>Kirk, who has been an <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/sen-mark-kirk-reverses-stance-gay-marriage-106428">outspoken supporter</a>&nbsp;of gay marriage, abruptly cancelled the group&rsquo;s reservation just a day before its Friday event. The Rockford-based Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society contacted Kirk&rsquo;s office last month to set up the <a href="http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/7722973168.html">symposium</a> on what it calls international &ldquo;natural family&rdquo; issues, said the group&rsquo;s vice president, Larry Jacobs.</p><p>That includes a controversial Russian law, criticized as being anti-gay, that makes it a crime to distribute &ldquo;propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations&rdquo; to children.</p><p>Jacobs said Kirk&rsquo;s office cancelled the reservation via email, with little explanation, after gay-friendly media outlets began inquiring about the booking.</p><p>&ldquo;We specifically are there to invite debate,&rdquo; Jacobs said, adding that asking a lawmaker to reserve a congressional meeting space is routine and doesn&rsquo;t imply an endorsement of the group using it. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s really, I think, a sad day for freedom of speech, as well as just the process of government when you can&rsquo;t discuss important issues.&rdquo;</p><p>The group was able to host its event after finally booking a meeting room Thursday night through the office of Republican House Speaker John Boehner, Jacobs said.</p><p>Senator Kirk&rsquo;s office initially took the reservation before it knew about the group&rsquo;s agenda, Kirk spokesman Lance Trover told WBEZ Friday.</p><p>&ldquo;Senator Kirk will not host groups that advance a hateful agenda,&rdquo; Trover said in an emailed statement.</p><p>The Howard Center believes that marriage between a man and a woman &ldquo;forms the sole moral context for natural sexual union,&rdquo; according to its website. It also says homosexuality will &ldquo;lead to obsession, remorse, alienation, and disease.&rdquo;</p><p>The group does not support violence against gays and lesbians, Jacobs said.</p><p><em>Al Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter @akeefe.</em></p></p> Fri, 15 Nov 2013 15:37:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/sen-kirk-cancels-meeting-anti-gay-group-109167 Kirk, Quigley to talk visa-free travel for Polish http://www.wbez.org/news/kirk-quigley-talk-visa-free-travel-polish-108476 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP264306511866.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A Polish-American organization says two Illinois lawmakers plan to reiterate their support for giving Polish citizens the chance to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa.</p><p>U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley have been outspoken in support of including Poland in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. The Polish American Association says both will speak Wednesday at its Chicago facility.</p><p>A provision to grant Poles visa-free travel is part of comprehensive immigration legislation.</p><p>Supporters say the city&#39;s large Polish-American community would make Chicago a popular destination for visitors. The Chicago area has one of the largest Polish populations outside of Poland.</p><p>Poland&#39;s consul general in Chicago, Paulina Kapuscinska, is scheduled to join the legislators at the event.</p></p> Wed, 21 Aug 2013 12:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/kirk-quigley-talk-visa-free-travel-polish-108476 Kirk delivers first big speech at Illinois State Fair http://www.wbez.org/news/kirk-delivers-first-big-speech-illinois-state-fair-108434 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/kirk.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk took center stage Thursday in Springfield for a Republican rally. His appearance comes nearly a year-and-a-half after he suffered a stroke.</p><p>Kirk&rsquo;s health kept him out of the U.S. Senate for about a year.</p><p>On Thursday, he made his first big speech since coming back during the State Fair&rsquo;s Republican Day, in which candidates for office made speeches for more than an hour.</p><p>As Kirk made his way to the podium with the help of a cane, the friendly audience waved yard signs with the phrase &lsquo;Never Give Up&rsquo; printed on them.</p><p>&ldquo;We are the fifth largest industrial and state and too much is - I think everybody should agree that our Republican fiscally conservative values are the way forward to make sure that we are the ones who are going to rescue Illinois. We already know how to do it. With our economic policies we can do it,&rdquo; Kirk said in his speech.</p><p>Kirk&rsquo;s speech lasted about 90 seconds, while some candidates for governor went on for more than seven minutes. Kirk&rsquo;s senate seat isn&rsquo;t up for election again until 2016.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers state politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" target="_blank">@tonyjarnold</a></em></p></p> Thu, 15 Aug 2013 17:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/kirk-delivers-first-big-speech-illinois-state-fair-108434 U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk repudiates his mass arrest idea http://www.wbez.org/news/us-sen-mark-kirk-repudiates-his-mass-arrest-idea-108118 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Mark Kirk.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois U.S. Sen. Kirk made headlines at the end of May when he proposed arresting 18,000 members of the gangster disciples.</p><p>Representative Bobby Rush responded by telling the Chicago Sun-Times Kirk&rsquo;s idea was &quot;headline grabbing&quot; and an &quot;upper-middle-class, elitist white boy solution to a problem he knows nothing about.&quot;</p><p>In the wake of the heated exchange of words, Kirk and Rush met and Kirk has pulled away from his anti-gang proposal.</p><p>&ldquo;Bobby Rush has been somewhat correct in his criticism of me that a mass arrest all at once is not actually that practical,&rdquo; Kirk said Thursday in an interview with WBEZ.</p><p>Kirk says his proposal was a reaction to the outrage he experienced due to the death of Hadiya Pendleton, the young woman who was shot and killed shortly after participating in Presidential inauguration festivities in Washington, D.C.</p><p>Kirk says he&rsquo;s still focused on whittling away at the Gangster Disciples gang and is pushing for $500 million in extra federal spending on law enforcement.</p></p> Fri, 19 Jul 2013 14:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/us-sen-mark-kirk-repudiates-his-mass-arrest-idea-108118 Kirk holds first public appearance since stroke http://www.wbez.org/news/kirk-holds-first-public-appearance-stroke-107016 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS5453_Sen. Kirk_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In his first public appearance since suffering from a stroke last year, Illinois U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R) attested to the progress he has made through rehabilitation, and chimed in on a number of political issues that have been simmering in Washington and Chicago.</p><p dir="ltr">The junior Senator sat in a wheelchair as he spoke with media outlets at the LEARN Public Charter School near North Chicago in Lake County on Friday. Next to him were Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D) and Illinois Congressman Brad Schneider (D-10th).</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;My standard walk for rehab was from my house to the Fort Sheridan (water) tower, which is about a block, and it always took 18 minutes,&rdquo; Kirk said on Friday, &ldquo;and yesterday, it took eight (minutes). So it&rsquo;s much, much faster.&rdquo; The stroke impaired movements particularly on the left side of Kirk&rsquo;s body, and kept him off Capitol Hill for a year.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Part of my mission is to tell everybody in Illinois, &lsquo;If you have a mom or a dad who goes through a stroke, that if they get depressed one day to call me and I&rsquo;ll get them up and turn them around,&rsquo;&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">Kirk also chimed in on the immigration overhaul that Durbin and others in the so-called &ldquo;Gang of Eight&rdquo; senators have introduced in Washington. He said he has spoken to one of the Republican leaders on that bill, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) about introducing an amendment to award citizenship to military veterans who have earned Combat Infantry or Combat Action badges.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;My feeling is if you have fought with us, you are one of us,&rdquo; said Kirk. &ldquo;That is something that I&rsquo;ll seek to add to the bill.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">He also said that he is withholding judgment on President Barack Obama&rsquo;s nomination of Chicago business executive Penny Pritzker to the Secretary of Commerce cabinet position until he has had a chance to speak with her. Kirk said he wants to hear about Pritzker&rsquo;s &ldquo;pro-business&rdquo; agenda.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 03 May 2013 17:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/kirk-holds-first-public-appearance-stroke-107016 Illinois Senators remind American not to forget about ORD expansion http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-senators-remind-american-not-forget-about-ord-expansion-105568 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AMRresized_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F79436747" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Illinois senators don&rsquo;t want the pending merger between American Airlines and US Airways to affect plans to expand O&rsquo;Hare International Airport.</p><p>Last night, Senators Dick Durbin (D) and Mark Kirk (R) sent American Airlines a letter saying they hope the merger won&rsquo;t derail the O&rsquo;Hare expansion plan.</p><p>The billion dollar <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/doa/provdrs/omp.html">O&rsquo;Hare Modernization Program</a> hinges on agreement United and American Airlines. The city is scheduled to sit back down with the two carriers in March to work on the next phase of the decade-long project.</p><p><a href="http://www.dot.gov/briefing-room/agreement-reached-expand-capacity-o%E2%80%99hare-and-foster-economic-growth-nationwide">In 2011</a>, Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood helped broker a deal between the federal government, the city and the airlines.</p><p>In the letter, the Senators reminded the airline the O&rsquo;Hare project &quot;will create 195,000 more jobs and generate $18 billion in annual economic activity,&quot; adding the merger faces &ldquo;regulatory scrutiny&rdquo; by legislators before being approved.</p><p>Speaking today from Chicago, Sen. Durbin said the project was crucial.</p><p>&quot;We really believe that key to economic progress in the Chicago reason is new runways and the modernization of O&#39;Hare,&quot; Durbin said. &quot;I&#39;d like a committment from the new American Airlines that they are going to with us in that effort.&quot;</p><p>Staff from Senator Durbin&rsquo;s office said they had not yet received a response from American.</p><p>&quot;We appreciate the concerns expressed in the letter by Senators Durbin and Kirk,&quot; American spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan said, adding, &quot;We have frankly been a little bit busy of late.&quot;</p><p>Fagan reiterated what the airline said yesterday during its merger announcement, that Chicago remains an important hub, but declined further comment.</p><p>Here&#39;s the full letter sent yesterday:</p><p style=" margin: 12px auto 6px auto; font-family: Helvetica,Arial,Sans-serif; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; font-size: 14px; line-height: normal; font-size-adjust: none; font-stretch: normal; -x-system-font: none; display: block;"><a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/125701684/Durbin-Kirk-Letter-to-AA-and-US-Airways-Merger-2-14-13" style="text-decoration: underline;" title="View Durbin Kirk Letter to AA and US Airways - Merger - 2.14.13 on Scribd">Durbin Kirk Letter to AA and US Airways - Merger - 2.14.13</a> by</p><p><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="undefined" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="600" id="doc_40997" scrolling="no" src="http://www.scribd.com/embeds/125701684/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 15 Feb 2013 16:49:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-senators-remind-american-not-forget-about-ord-expansion-105568 Sen. Kirk talks guns, health - and the presidential fist bump http://www.wbez.org/news/sen-kirk-talks-guns-health-and-presidential-fist-bump-105516 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/kirk_fist_bump.png" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F79124427" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>A day after President Barack Obama urged lawmakers to bring new gun control legislation up for a vote in Congress, Illinois U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk says he&rsquo;s cautiously optimistic about gun control measures he&rsquo;s pushing in the Senate.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m trying to be very Midwestern about this &ndash; you know, practical changes that can actually change laws, that can actually save lives,&rdquo; Kirk said in an interview with WBEZ Wednesday.</p><p>Tuesday night&rsquo;s State of the Union was Kirk&rsquo;s first since returning to work last month, after having suffered a massive stroke that kept him off Capitol Hill for nearly a year. He&rsquo;s now one of a handful of senators negotiating new gun control legislation, following the mass shooting at Newtown, Conn. in December.&nbsp;</p><p>For now, Kirk said the focus is on expanding background checks for would-be gun owners, rather than an all-out ban on military-style firearms that many gun rights advocates oppose.</p><p>&ldquo;I will tell you the assault weapon ban is the harder lift,&rdquo; Kirk said, adding later: &ldquo;And so what I think &ndash; the one that is most likely is background checks that we could probably get through the Congress this time.&rdquo;</p><p>The senator also met Wednesday with the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old Chicago girl whose shooting death has thrust Chicago gun violence into the national spotlight. Pendleton&rsquo;s parents were guests of First Lady Michelle Obama during Tuesday&rsquo;s speech, and the president invoked her murder to push for tougher gun control laws.</p><p>On Wednesday, Kirk said he received permission from Pendleton&rsquo;s parents to name an anti-gun trafficking bill after their daughter, prompting Kirk to dub Hadiya Pendleton &ldquo;our silver-lining child.&rdquo;</p><p>At the same time, Kirk said he does not want to &ldquo;over-promise&rdquo; on what might be included in a final gun control package, given fierce opposition from some fellow Republicans, and a tough fight in the GOP-led House of Representatives.</p><p>On a lighter note, Kirk also reflected on the &ldquo;<a href="http://gawker.com/5983860/this-gif-of-obamas-exploding-fist-bump-is-the-state-of-the-union-highlight" target="_blank">exploding fist bump</a>&rdquo; he shared with Obama as he entered House chamber, minutes before giving the State of the Union. (See video below.)</p><p>That goodwill hand gesture &ndash; in which both parties bump their closed fists together, then splay their fingers open to &ldquo;blow it up&rdquo; &ndash; has since spawned a popular internet meme, in which the president seems to be mouthing the word &ldquo;boom&rdquo; upon impact.</p><p>&ldquo;I thought to myself, &lsquo;Here I got a chance to do the famous Obama fist-bump, with the guy who has &hellip; made it ubiquitous across the country,&rsquo;&rdquo; Kirk told WBEZ.</p><p>&ldquo;And I was very pleased when some press outlets said, &lsquo;Best Fist-Bump Ever,&rsquo;&rdquo; Kirk said, adding, &ldquo;These are small things that add up to the bipartisan cooperation necessary to keep this place running.&rdquo;</p><h2><strong>The fist bump (via WashingtonPost.com)</strong></h2><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="399" scrolling="no" src="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/video/videoEmbed.html?uuid=617759fa-7579-11e2-95e4-6148e45d7adb&amp;noheadline=0" width="610"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 13 Feb 2013 16:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/sen-kirk-talks-guns-health-and-presidential-fist-bump-105516 Senators seek deal on gun-sale background checks http://www.wbez.org/news/senators-seek-deal-gun-sale-background-checks-105428 <p><p>WASHINGTON &mdash; A cornerstone of President Barack Obama&#39;s drive to check gun violence is gathering bipartisan steam as four senators, including two of the National Rifle Association&#39;s congressional champions, privately seek compromise on requiring far more firearms purchasers to undergo background checks.</p><p>The talks are being held even as Obama&#39;s call to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, the two other major pillars of his plan, are hitting rough waters on Capitol Hill. An agreement among the four senators to expand background checks would add significant impetus to that high-profile proposal by getting the endorsement of a group that ranges from one of the Senate&#39;s most liberal Democrats to one of its most conservative Republicans.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;ll get something, I hope. I&#39;m praying for it,&quot; said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., one of the participants.</p><p>Manchin, a moderate Democrat, is an NRA member who aired a 2010 campaign ad in which he literally shot a hole through Democratic environmental legislation that he pledged to oppose.</p><p>Also involved is Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., another NRA member with a strong conservative record but occasional maverick impulses; No. 3 Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer of New York, a liberal; and moderate GOP Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois.</p><p>Background checks are required only for sales by the nation&#39;s 55,000 federally licensed gun dealers, but not for private purchases like those at gun shows, online or in person. There are few indisputable, up-to-date statistics on how many guns change hands without background checks, but a respected study using 1990s data estimated that 30 percent to 40 percent of gun transactions fit into that category.</p><p>The senators&#39; talks have included discussions about how to encourage states to make more mental health data available to the federal system for checking gun buyers&#39; records, according to people who spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to describe the private negotiations. They are also considering potential exemptions to expanded background check requirements, including transactions involving relatives or people with licenses to carry concealed weapons</p><p>People involved in the talks would share little about their substance. In one of the few public remarks about the talks by participants, Schumer said last week that the talks have been productive and said the package they were seeking &quot;will not limit your ability to borrow your Uncle Willie&#39;s hunting rifle or share a gun with your friend at a shooting range.&quot;</p><p>Congress has been focusing on guns since the December massacre of 20 first-graders and six adults at a school in Newtown, Conn. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., wants his panel to approve gun control legislation in the next few weeks and has voiced strong support for universal background checks for firearms purchases.</p><p>While an expansion of background checks is expected to be a key part of any gun control bill Leahy produces, a version of that provision with bipartisan support could give the entire package a boost.</p><p>It is likely that any gun-control bill will need 60 votes to pass the 100-member Senate. Democrats have 55 votes, including two Democratic-leaning independents.</p><p>Leaders of the GOP-run House are planning to see what, if anything, the Senate passes before moving on gun legislation. Strategists believe that a measure that passes the Senate with clear bipartisan support could pressure the House to act.</p><p>The political impact that the four senators could have by reaching agreement stems largely from who they are.</p><p>If Coburn embraces an agreement, that could help win over other conservative Republicans at a time when the GOP is responding to its White House and congressional election losses of last November by trying to broaden its national appeal.</p><p>In an Associated Press-GfK Poll last month, requiring more background checks got overwhelming public support, compared to just over half who backed bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.</p><p>&quot;The whole goal is to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and criminals,&quot; Coburn said in a brief interview.</p><p>Manchin&#39;s support could make it easier to win backing from other Democratic senators from GOP-leaning states, many of whom face re-election next year and who have been leery of embracing Obama&#39;s proposals.</p><p>&quot;If the language is meaningful, it would be obviously a huge step,&quot; said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, which represents child welfare, religious and other groups favoring gun curbs. &quot;To have someone like Coburn, who&#39;s voted consistently with the gun lobby, to come out and endorse a meaningful background check would be very helpful.&quot;</p><p>Schumer and Kirk each have &quot;F&#39;&#39; scores from the NRA for their voting records in Congress, while Coburn and Manchin have &quot;A&#39;&#39; ratings.</p><p>Though widened background checks is given the strongest chance for enactment of Obama&#39;s major proposals, it is opposed by the NRA and many congressional Republicans, who consider it intrusive and unworkable for a system they say already has flaws.</p><p>&quot;My problem with background checks is you&#39;re never going to get criminals to go through background checks,&quot; Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president, told the Senate Judiciary Committee at its gun control hearing last week.</p><p>&quot;That&#39;s the way reductions in liberty occur, when you start saying people have to sign up for something and they have a database where they know exactly who&#39;s who,&quot; Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in an interview.</p><p>Gun control supporters note that federal laws specifically forbid the national background check system from being used as a registry of gun owners. Much of the information the system collects must be destroyed within a day.</p><p>NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam declined to comment on the senators&#39; discussions.</p><p>According to Justice Department estimates, the federal and state governments ran 108 million background checks of firearms sales between 1994 when the requirement became law and 2009. Of those, 1.9 million &mdash; almost 2 percent &mdash; were denied, usually because would-be purchasers had criminal records.</p><p>People legally judged to be &quot;mentally defective&quot; are among those blocked by federal law from firearms purchases. States are supposed to make mental health records available to the federal background check system and receive more generous Justice Department grants if they do, but many provide little or no such data because of privacy concerns or antiquated record-keeping systems.</p><p>People following the discussions say the talks have touched on:</p><p>&mdash;The types of family relatives who would be allowed to give guns to each other without a background check.</p><p>&mdash;Possibly exempting sales in remote areas.</p><p>&mdash;Whether to help some veterans who sought treatment for traumatic stress disorder &mdash; now often barred from getting firearms &mdash; become eligible to do so.</p></p> Fri, 08 Feb 2013 09:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/senators-seek-deal-gun-sale-background-checks-105428 Nearly 1 year after stroke, Kirk returns to Senate http://www.wbez.org/news/nearly-1-year-after-stroke-kirk-returns-senate-104683 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP301656839444.jpg" style="height: 402px; width: 620px;" title="Members of Congress line the steps to the Senate door of the Capitol building on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, as Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., second from right, accompanied by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., right, and Vice President Joe Biden, waves as he walks the steps to mark his return to Congress. Kirk said he often visualized climbing the 45 steps of the U.S. Capitol as a source of inspiration during his months of grueling physical therapy after suffering a major stroke last year. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)" /></div><p>WASHINGTON &mdash; Nearly a year after suffering a debilitating stroke, Sen. Mark Kirk walked the 45 steps up the Capitol on Thursday and reclaimed his seat in the U.S. Senate on the first day of the 113th Congress.</p><p>The Illinois Republican was greeted at the foot of the Capitol steps by an open-armed Vice President Joe Biden. With Biden and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., at his side, and clutching a four-prong cane, Kirk climbed the steps to the Capitol&#39;s entrance to rousing applause from Senate colleagues, the Illinois congressional delegation and Capitol staff.</p><p>Kirk, 53, waved and smiled, pausing several times to greet well-wishers. &quot;Feels great,&quot; he said, walking through the door.</p><p>Moments earlier, Kirk&#39;s return brought most of the Senate, many members of the House where Kirk once served and dozens of congressional aides to the steps of the Capitol. On a frigid, but clear and sunny day, they cheered as Kirk emerged from a sedan to find Biden awaiting him.</p><p>&quot;Welcome back man!&quot; Biden said.</p><p>Kirk smiled broadly, hugging the vice president.</p><p>&quot;During the debate I was rooting for you,&quot; Kirk joked.</p><p>With Biden, Manchin &mdash; Kirk&#39;s closest friend in the Senate &mdash; and his Illinois colleague, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin nearby, Kirk mixed grimaces of concentration with smiles as he walked up the steps. &quot;Go, Mark go,&quot; &#39;&#39;yeah Mark!&quot; and &quot;you&#39;re almost there!&quot; fellow members of Congress cheered. Biden kept a steadying hand on Kirk as he climbed and Manchin lent a supporting arm around his waist. Kirk&#39;s ascent, with several pauses, took about 20 minutes.</p><p>As they neared the Senate, Biden told Kirk he could take all the time he wanted.</p><p>&quot;I made the same walk,&quot; Biden said. He was referring to his own recuperation from brain aneurysms in 1988 and return to the Senate.</p><p>Walking past reporters, Kirk settled into a desk near the back of the chamber. One by one, fellow senators came to wish him well and Kirk chatted with the senator seated next to him, Republican John Hoeven of North Dakota. In a prayer that began Thursday&#39;s Senate session &mdash; the first of the new Congress &mdash; Senate Chaplain Barry Black expressed gratitude for Kirk&#39;s return.</p><p>Kirk&#39;s return followed a year of an intensive, experimental rehabilitation regimen that is often compared to military boot camp because of its intensity. Throughout the process, he updated constituents with video messages about his rehab and his official work. From Chicago, he held video conferences with his staff and worked to keep up to date on Senate business with an eye toward a return this year.</p><p>&quot;I think I am more glad that he&#39;s back than he is,&quot; Manchin joked.</p><p>Durbin said he was thrilled to have Kirk back. &quot;Fantastic,&quot; he said.</p><p>Kirk was all smiles, too.</p><p>&quot;Good to see you,&quot; he said to a group of reporters waiting for him at the top of the Capitol steps.</p><p>Kirk keeps his seats on the Senate appropriations, banking and health-education-labor committees as well as the Special Committee on Aging. His term expires at the end of 2016.</p></p> Thu, 03 Jan 2013 13:59:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/nearly-1-year-after-stroke-kirk-returns-senate-104683 Sen. Kirk gears up for return to Washington http://www.wbez.org/news/sen-kirk-gears-return-washington-104647 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP560636823507.jpg" style="height: 459px; width: 620px;" title="FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2012 file photo, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, right, emerges from the 103rd floor stairwell at Chicago's Willis Tower during the RIC SkyRise Chicago event, a fundraiser for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, where Kirk is a patient. Nearly a year after a stroke left him barely able to move the left side of his body, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is expected to climb the 45 steps to the Senate’s front door this week - a walk that’s significant not just for Illinois’ junior senator, but also for medical researchers and hundreds of thousands of stroke patients. (AP/File)" /></div><p>HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. &mdash; Sen. Mark Kirk says recovering from a major stroke a year ago is the hardest thing he&#39;s ever done.</p><p>The Illinois Republican <a href="http://bit.ly/Ukrj2X" target="_blank">tells</a> the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald that he has a renewed sense of purpose and become more religious since the stroke in January 2012.</p><p>Kirk plans to return to the U.S. Senate on Thursday and climb the 45 steps of the Capitol. Kirk says that&#39;s something he visualized throughout his months of physical therapy.</p><p>The stroke limited movement on the left side of Kirk&#39;s body and affected his speech. He now speaks more slowly and deliberately and is expected to have a scaled-back schedule. He won&#39;t keep a packed travel schedule.</p><p>Kirk uses a four-pronged cane and may also use wheelchair.</p></p> Wed, 02 Jan 2013 10:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/sen-kirk-gears-return-washington-104647