Mark Kirk Sworn In As Illinois’ Junior U.S. Senator

WASHINGTON (AP) — Declaring an end to “a sad chapter in Illinois history” Republican Mark Kirk was sworn in Monday as the U.S. Senate’s newest member, giving him seniority over fellow newcomers set to join the chamber in January.

Kirk pledged a bipartisan, centrist approach but also quickly took aim at Democrats he said had squandered the public’s goodwill.

“Our state’s leaders tried to sell this seat, then blocked an election to fill it,” Kirk said at a reception following his swearing in. “But the courts, the law and the people spoke.”

Kirk is replacing Sen. Roland Burris, who was appointed by scandal-tarred former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill the remainder of President Barack Obama’s Senate term. Illinois voters in November elected Kirk to fill out the remainder of Burris’ term and for a full, six-year term after a tight race with Democrat Alexi Giannoulias.

The ascent of Kirk, a five-term congressman, from the House to the Senate means Republicans will now have 42 votes in the Senate — a number that will rise to 47 in January. Being sworn in now gives Kirk a small, but important, seniority advantage over other incoming senators, who won’t be sworn in until next year.

Kirk was led into the Senate chamber by the last Republican to represent Illinois in the Senate, former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, and his new colleague, Sen. Richard Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat. He was then sworn in on the floor of the Senate by Vice President Joe Biden.

After Kirk took his pledge to serve, the chamber burst into long, sustained applause. Kirk was then greeted by dozens of senators from both parties and members of the Illinois delegation. The new senator smiled broadly throughout the handshakes and embraced Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who he has cited as a mentor.

Kirk then moved down the hall of the Capitol to the ceremonial old Senate chamber, where he posed for pictures before hustling on to a packed reception in a Senate office building. Kirk then outlined his approach to governing to the crowd, which included fellow members of Congress, some prominent lobbyists and supporters who had flown in for the event.

“I will serve as a fiscal conservative, a social moderate and national security hawk,” Kirk said. “I will reach out to all 99 other senators to help balance the budget, defend America and grow our economy.”

As if to prove the point, Kirk then broke with his party for his first vote. He voted with a majority of Democrats and a handful of Republicans to move forward a food safety bill supported by Durbin.

© 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Paul Navarro

    Senator Kirk must be commended for not following partisan lines. Maybe his vote is a habinger for the future of American politics. We must vote for what is morally and ethically right, rather than along party lines. Maybe there is hope!

  • Judy Rauch

    I think you shold have all listen to Morning Joe today with Mike Pence on there defending tax breaks for the ultra rich saying it creates job well Mr Pence you have those tax breaks for 10 years and the only jobs created was in China He feels the pain of the unemplyed but you know thats not his problem.Then the next guest comes on and tells how 99% of Congress are millionaires or higher so now we know who these tax breaks are for members of Congress.Well Mr Pence I believe you and all of Congress should be run out of there and perhaps the country cause you are doing a right fine job of taking us down

  • John Muldoon

    That piece of dog dung Kirk is a spineless partisan puppet! he just voted along party lines to kill a bill that would have provided healthcare assistance to police, fire, and EMS workers who are now ill as a result of the carcinogenics they were exposed to trying to rescue others at the World Trade Center. Why? He and the other puppets didn’t believe we had the money. Yet look at his record already on voting for pork projects…he has supported BILLIONS in those. I am ashamed to say that he is from my state…and I will do everything in my power to assist other public safety professionals across the state in seeing him voted out. And praise for Sen Huckabee, who pleaded with the Republicans to support the bill.

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