Illinois Republican Mark Kirk was sworn in to the U.S. Senate on Monday afternoon, and says his first priority as a senator will be to turn the economy around.
Kirk was sworn in at 4:30 p.m. Monday by Vice President Joe Biden in the United States Senate Chambers, the Associated Press reports. Kirk will fill the remainder of Sen. Roland Burris' term, which will give him the opportunity to work during the lame duck session--and get a six-week head start on other newly elected senators.
Kirk, a five-term congressman from the Chicago suburbs, arrived in the Senate chambers with former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald and Sen. Dick Durbin, NBC Chicago reports. His friends and family were also in attendance. (Scroll down for video.)
In a Monday Chicago Tribune editorial, Kirk laid out what his top priorities in the Senate will be. From the Tribune:
The first Senate bill I will introduce will be the Spending Control Act. This bill builds on two recent successful examples of our democracy making the right decisions for our long-term future. First, in the 1980s, the bipartisan Grace Commission set the standard for serious oversight by identifying federal spending that would add little to our nation's growth, but much to its debt. Second, the three military base closing commissions showed that bipartisan dignitaries, once given the authority to submit a proposal to Congress for a straight up or down vote, actually cut spending where others failed.
The Spending Control Act will marry these two proposals -- a new Grace Commission with a mandate to realign federal spending against its actual income, and "base closing" procedural powers to submit its proposals for simple "yes" or "no" votes in Congress. Given the successful record of all three base closing commissions to implement their reductions, despite a great hue and cry, prospects would be good under this proposal for our greatest of all democracies to depart its current course toward national bankruptcy and crushing future debt.
Kirk also sat down with fellow U.S. Senator from Illinois, Democrat Dick Durbin, to discuss bills they can agree on, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
"Number-one: Ban sewage dumping in the Great Lakes," Kirk told the paper. "I've been highly critical of Milwaukee. They built the not-so-Deep Tunnel. But most importantly: Detroit. Half of all sewage dumping in the Great Lakes is from one city. Roughly 24 billion gallons of sewage were dumped in the Great Lakes last year -- 12 billion from Detroit.
He also told the paper he and Sen. Durbin support high-speed rail, and hope Wisconsin's controversial decision to turn down federal money to expand their high-speed rail will benefit Illinois.
Kirk said he may not have to make a "yes" or "no" vote on extending former President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy, since Democrats seem ready to extend the cuts for another two years.
Already, Kirk appears to be ready and willing to cross party lines. A few weeks ago, he vowed to support a bill that would give $7.4 billion in health care funds to workers who were sickened while cleaning up the World Trade Center following the September 11, 2001 attacks--a bill that many Republicans have come out against.
He also reportedly made it clear to Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell that he is a pro-choice "social moderate," and would not always vote the party line, according to the Sun-Times.
"How do we get out of this mess?" Kirk wrote of the country's economic problems in his Tribune editorial. "First, we cast aside the partisan differences and work across the aisle to solve this problem."