Mark Kirk sworn into President Obama's former Senate seat
Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk was sworn into office Monday night, becoming the first of more than a dozen new Republicans to join the Senate after their party's sweeping wins earlier this month.
Kirk, a five-term congressman, bested Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) to win the Senate seat once held by President Obama. His succession of appointed Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.). gives the GOP 42 seats in the Senate and, by virtue of Illinois's electoral law, enabled him to be seated six weeks ahead on the other new members of the Senate Class of 2010.
At the swearing-in, administered on the Senate floor by Vice President Biden, Kirk was accompanied by Illinois's senior senator, Richard Durbin (D), as well as Peter Fitzgerald, the last Republican to represent Illinois in the Senate.
A Navy Reserve intelligence officer, Kirk took the oath of office on the 1827 Bible of David Farragut, the Navy admiral who famously declared during one Civil War battle, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"
After the swearing-in ceremony, Kirk delivered a campaign-style speech to several hundred supporters in a third-floor chamber of the Russell Senate Office Building.
"Today we ended a sad chapter in Illinois history," Kirk said, noting former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's (D) alleged attempts to sell the Senate seat and recent efforts to block the state from holding a special election for the remainder of Obama's term.
"The courts, the law and the people of Illinois won," Kirk said to loud applause.
Echoing his campaign-trail rhetoric, Kirk described himself as a "fiscal conservative, social moderate and national security hawk." He also played up his bipartisanship, noting that he and Durbin have agreed to work on banning all sewage dumping in Illinois, finishing the modernization of Chicago O'Hare International Airport and building high-speed rail in Illinois.
Asked what he hopes to accomplish during the remainder of Congress's lame-duck session, Kirk said that his priority will be to extend tax relief so as to avoid a double-dip recession. He also noted that he plans to introduce a bill on spending in the Senate as early as tomorrow.
As for his committee assignments, Kirk told reporters after the swearing-in that he has requested seats on the Appropriations, Commerce, Banking and Agriculture Committees. He also announced that he plans to move into Burris's former offices on Wednesday.
Burris's departure means that the Senate is without any African Americans for the first time in nearly six years.
With the addition of Kirk, the balance in the Senate now stands at 56 Democrats, 42 Republicans and two independents who caucus with the Democrats. Kirk's departure from his House seat will leave the current balance in the lower chamber at 255 Democrats, 179 Republicans and one vacancy.
As Kirk made his way out of the reception room Monday night, his backers signaled that they had high hopes for him: Two supporters from Chicago hoisted a handmade sign emblazoned with the words, "Kirk for President 2016."
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