Kirk sworn in
During a special inauguration ceremony Monday on the floor of the U.S. Senate, former five-term congressman Mark Kirk of north suburban Highland Park was officially sworn into the Senate to fill the remaining month of President Barack Obama’s unexpired Senate term.
Kirk, 51, will take the oath of office a second time in January when he is sworn into a full six-year Senate term. Kirk won a court-ordered special election on Nov. 2 to fill the remaining weeks of the vacancy created when Obama won the 2008 presidential election. Kirk also won election on the same day to a regular six-year Senate term in the upcoming 112th Congress.
“I am a fiscal conservative, social moderate, national security hawk,” Kirk said after Vice President Joe Biden swore him into office as Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, the last Illinois Republican to serve in the Senate, stood by his side.
Kirk, a Navy Reserve intelligence officer, took the oath on the 1827 Bible of David Farragut, the nation’s first Navy admiral who famously declared, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead,” as he led Union soldiers in the 1864 battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War. The same Bible was used to swear in two iconic U.S. Navy Chiefs of Naval Operations—Admirals Thomas H. Moorer and Elmo Zumult.
During a reception in the Russell Senate office building following the swearing-in ceremony, guests honored the life and service of fallen Marine Lance Corporal James Stack of northwest suburban Arlington Heights, who was killed in action on Nov. 10 in Afghanistan, by joining in the pledge of allegiance led by Stack’s father, Robert; mother, Linda; widow, Katie; and daughter, Mikayla.
Pastor Marvin E. Wiley of Rock of Ages Baptist Church in Maywood delivered the reception’s invocation. Under Wiley’s direction, Rock of Ages grew substantially and recently completed construction of a 40,000-square-foot Spiritual Growth and Development Center in the western suburb.
Kirk, a Republican, succeeds Democrat Roland Burris, who had held the Senate seat since Jan. 15, 2009, following his interim appointment to the post by embattled former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Burris elected not to run to retain the seat after a federal court ruled in June 2009 that the Constitution required Illinois officials to hold a special election for the vacant seat.
Kirk built a reputation as a fiscally conservative, socially moderate lawmaker during his nearly decade-long service in the House. He officially resigned his 10th District congressional seat just prior to the Senate swearing-in ceremony. The clerk of the House of Representatives will run his district office in north suburban Northbrook until Congressman-elect Robert Dold takes office on Jan. 5.
Kirk first won election to the 10th District seat on Chicago’s North Shore in 2000, succeeding former 20-year Rep. John Porter. Kirk, who formerly worked as Porter’s chief of staff, had Porter’s endorsement in the hotly contested race.
Kirk, who graduated cum laude from Cornell University and has a Masters Degree from the London School of Economics and a law degree from Georgetown University, also previously worked for the World Bank, the State Department, the law firm of Baker & McKenzie and the U.S. House International Relations Committee.
In the House, Kirk served on the powerful House Appropriations Committee and co-chaired the moderate GOP Tuesday Group and the bipartisan House US-China Working Group. He also advanced a “Suburban Agenda” to promote issues important to suburbanites nationwide, including science-based education programs, Internet safety and national defense.
A commander in the Naval Reserve, Kirk became the first House member to serve in an imminent danger zone since 1942 when he deployed as a reservist to Afghanistan in December 2008. He completed a second deployment last January. An intelligence officer, Kirk also regularly serves monthly rotations in the Pentagon.
During his Senate campaign, Kirk, a 21-year military veteran, highlighted his efforts to help save the North Chicago VA Medical Center as one of his proudest accomplishments. Under a unique operating agreement, the North Chicago facility recently merged operations with the nearby Naval Health Clinic Great Lakes to become the Captain James A. Lovell Health Center.
Kirk also cited his efforts to keep pollution out of Lake Michigan, clean up Waukegan Harbor, expand commuter rail and crack down on gangs as tangible results of his effective leadership on behalf of his 10th District constituents.
Born in Champaign and raised in Chatham in central Illinois, southwest suburban Downers Grove and north suburban Kenilworth, Kirk said his priority in the Senate will be to work for the benefit of all residents of Illinois by supporting policies to lower government spending and taxes.
To achieve those goals, Kirk plans to seek bipartisan solutions, support an end to earmark spending and encourage lawmakers to enact a presidential line-item veto and approve the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon’s Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.
Kirk also said he will introduce a “budget control bill” aimed at helping the federal government find ways to cut costs by developing expert recommendations on eliminating waste and creating strenuous oversight of spending.
Kirk said his “Spending Control Act of 2011” would re-establish the Grace Commission of the 1980s to investigate government waste and identify programs that could be eliminated with an up or down vote of the full House and Senate.