ENG: Mark Steven Kirk (born September 15, 1959) is the junior United States Senator from Illinois and a member of the Republican Party. Previously, Kirk was a member of the United States House of Representatives, representing Illinois's 10th congressional district.
Born in Champaign, Illinois, he graduated from Cornell University, the London School of Economics, and Georgetown University Law Center. He practiced law throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He joined the United States Navy Reserve as a Direct Commission Officer in the Intelligence career field in 1989 and was recalled to active duty for the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. He participated in Operation Northern Watch in Iraq the following year. He remains a member of the Navy Reserve, now holding the rank of Commander.
Kirk was elected to the House in 2000.
During his fifth term in November 2010 he won two concurrent elections: to finish the final months of former Senator Barack Obama's term and to serve the next six-year term. He was sworn in on November 29, 2010, and then began a six-year Senate term in January 2011.
In January 2012, Kirk suffered a stroke; he has been hospitalized, and his physicians expect long-term physical impairments but not cognitive ones.
On January 3, 2013, Kirk returned to work as Senator in Washington, D.C. almost a year after his stroke and climbed the steps of the U.S. Capitol. He was greeted by Joe Manchin, Dick Durbin, and Vice President Joe Biden, among others.
Early life and education
Kirk was born in Champaign, Illinois, the son of Judith Ann (Radny) and Francis Gabriel "Frank" Kirk.
After graduating from New Trier East High School in 1977 he attended Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois for two years, before transferring to Cornell University, where he graduated cum laude with a B.A. in History. Kirk later obtained a masters degree from the London School of Economics and a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from Georgetown University Law Center.
While Kirk was an undergraduate student at Cornell University he held a work study job supervising a play group at the Forest Home Chapel nursery school. After getting his masters degree, Kirk taught for one year at a private school in London. He later stated in speeches and interviews that he had been a nursery and middle school teacher.
For example, Kirk claimed in a speech to the Illinois Education Association, "As a former nursery school and middle school teacher, I know some of what it takes to bring order to class." However, a member of the Forest Home Chapel said, "He was never, ever considered a teacher [at the nursery school]."
In discussing problems in the educational system early in his congressional career, Kirk addressed the brevity of his teaching career: “I did leave the teaching profession, but if we had addressed some of the teacher development issues, which I want to raise with you, I might have stayed.”
Kirk was commissioned as an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve in 1989.
In 1999 Kirk was recalled to active duty in Operation Allied Force for the bombing of Yugoslavia. He served from to April 10 to June 6, 1999 as the intelligence officer of VAQ-209. VAQ-209 was combined with three other EA-6B squadrons to form an ad hoc unit called Electronic Attack Wing Aviano, Italy. VAQ-140 had tactical command of the combined unit. In May, 2000, the National Military Intelligence Association bestowed the organization's Vice Admiral Rufus L.
Taylor Award to Intelligence Division Electronic Attack Wing Aviano, Italy.
In March and April, 2000 Kirk trained with an EC-130 squadron based in Turkey. Kirk took a flight over Iraq as part of Operation Northern Watch, which enforced a no fly zone over the northern section of Iraq.
Kirk has served three, two-week reserve deployments in Afghanistan, with the latest concluding in September 2011.
During his military career, Kirk has been awarded the following medals: the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, as well as the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, the Navy Unit Commendation, and the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation. He continues his service in the United States Navy Reserve holding the rank of Commander.
Kirk corrected claims he had made about being awarded "Navy Intelligence Officer of the Year" after it was brought to the media's attention by his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias. In a 2002 House committee hearing recorded by C-Span, Kirk said, "I was the Navy's Intelligence Officer of the Year," an achievement he said gave him special qualifications to discuss national security spending. However, in May 2010, the Washington Post reported that Kirk's claim to having been named the Navy's “Intelligence Officer of the Year” was erroneous.
The National Military Intelligence Association gave the Vice Admiral Rufus L. Taylor Award to the entire Intelligence Division Electronic Attack Wing at Aviano. Kirk was the lead intelligence officer for VAQ-209, one of the four squadrons assigned to the Electronic Attack Wing. VAQ-140 had tactical command. Kirk later apologized for this and other errors, including claims of having been fired upon during an aerial reconnaissance mission in Iraq, about which there is no official record, and of having participated in Operation Desert Storm when in fact he did not.
On June 7, 2010, Medal of Honor recipient and advocate of Veteran's benefits, Allen Lynch, deemed Mark Kirk's apologies adequate, and further commented: “To me, in my opinion, it's just a bunch of nit picking. Plus, he's done a christ ton for veterans. So I think this is being blown way out of proportion".
Service under fire
Controversy regarding Kirk's military record continued as other statements surfaced, such as Kirk stating “the last time I was in Iraq I was in uniform, flying at 20,000 feet, and the Iraqi Air Defense network was shooting at us.” Kirk has since clarified his previous statements, admitting that he was never fired on as he flew over Iraq or Kosovo. “I simply misremembered [sic] it wrong,” he told The Chicago Sun-Times, referring to his military record.
On December 18, 2009, Undersecretary of Defense Gail H. McGinn noted in a memo that Kirk had on two previous active duty periods engaged in politicking—violation of military policy by participating in political activities while on active duty, per Department of Defense regulations. On one occasion Congressman Kirk commented on Rod Blagojevich's arrest and posted a tweet while on duty with the Navy in Afghanistan. According to the Pentagon, Kirk was required to sign a statement acknowledging he knew the rules and wouldn't break them again.
Early political career
Kirk worked on the staff of John Porter, the former holder of Illinois’s 10th congressional district. From 1991 to 1993, Kirk was the Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State in the U.S. State Department. Kirk was an attorney for Baker & McKenzie from 1993 to 1995. In 1995, Kirk was named as a counsel to the House International Relations Committee. He remained counsel to the House International Relations Committee until 1999.
U.S. House of Representatives - Elections
Kirk was originally elected in 2000 with 51%. He won re-election with comfortable margins in 2002 and 2004. He defeated Dan Seals by a five point margin in 2006, and defeated him again by the same margin in a rematch in 2008.
Kirk was a member of the House Iran Working Group, the founder and co-chair of the House U.S.-China Working Group, the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, the co-chair of the Albanian Issues Caucus in ex Yugoslavia, and a member of the GOP Tuesday Group. During his House tenure, he was a member of the House Appropriations Committee. Before leaving for the Senate, Kirk had been named to the Appropriations Committee.
During his tenure in the House, Kirk voted for the Waxman-Markey "Cap-and-Trade" bill.
Kirk attracted controversy by stating that he was not opposed if the immigration process in the United States discriminates against Arab males from certain countries. He stated, "I’m OK with discrimination against young Arab males from terrorist-producing states. I’m OK with that."
U.S. Senate - 2010 election
On July 20, 2009, Kirk announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate election for the seat held by Roland Burris, which had been held by Barack Obama before his election as president. On February 2, 2010, Kirk won the Republican primary with 56.6 percent of the vote; no other candidate had as much as 20 percent. He ran against Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias, Green Party nominee LeAlan Jones, and Libertarian nominee Mike Labno. During the Illinois U.S. Senate election campaign in 2010, Kirk and Giannoulias were in a hotly contested debate. Kirk (R) defeated Giannoulias in the election for the full 6-year term, getting 48% to Giannoulias's 46%. Kirk changed his position on Cap and Trade legislation during the campaign saying he voted for it "because it was in the narrow interests of my Congressional district," but that as a representative of the entire state of Illinois, "I will vote No on that bill.”
Kirk was sworn-in on November 29, 2010 as the junior Senator from Illinois. On December 18, 2010, Kirk voted in favor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010. He was one of only two Republicans to oppose legislation to detain American citizens indefinitely. Kirk sits at the Senate's coveted candy desk.
In his first year in the Senate, Kirk worked along with U.S. Sen Dick Durbin (D-IL) to help mediate a dispute between airlines serving O'Hare International Airport and the City of Chicago in order to Keep the O'Hare Modernization project on Schedule. It is estimated the project would create 200,000 jobs and add $18 billion to the regional economy when completed.
Kirk and Durbin also worked together to bring $186 million in federal funds to support improved rail service from Chicago to St. Louis. The money was originally rejected by the state of Florida but reallocated to Illinois.
Kirk authored legislation, entitled the Lincoln Legacy Infrastructure Development Act, that sought to eliminate barriers and encourage private investment in roads, transit, airport and rail. Several of the provisions in the legislation would later become law under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (P.L. 112-114), including provisions to eliminate barriers to public-private partnerships for public transportation projects and a boost for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFA) program.
Illinois debt crisis
Kirk appointed a sovereign debt advisory board to help research the unfunded obligations and unpaid bills contributing to Illinois' debt crisis. He later produced a Report on Illinois Debt highlighting the unsustainable debt the state continued to hold and the need for pension reform. Kirk introduced legislation entitled No State Bailouts, S. Res. 188, along with 14 other US Senators, which would ban federal bailouts of financially struggling states. Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford endorsed the legislation.
Kirk and Representative Robert Dold (R-IL-10) introduced bipartisan legislation to expand qualifications for ending federal pension payouts to elected officials convicted of corruption. The bicameral provision expanded current law to include an additional 22 crimes, and the bill was included in the STOCK Act signed by the President in April 2012.
In February 1998, Kirk met his future wife, Kimberly Vertolli, a Naval Intelligence Officer, by chance, while the two were on duty together at the Pentagon. “It was supposed to be my weekend off ... but Saddam had just thrown out the weapons inspectors and we were preparing for a strike on Baghdad,” Vertolli said, according to Capitol File magazine. The two married in August 2001, when Kirk was 41. After eight years of marriage, the two separated, finalizing their divorce in the summer of 2009. Reports have noted that the divorce was an amicable one and the two remain close friends.
Kirk was earlier engaged to Virginia Hurt Johnson, whom he met while both were practicing law in Washington, DC, in 1994. Johnson became the Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 13th congressional district of North Carolina in 2004. She was Counsel to the House Armed Services Committee and was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for House Legislative Affairs under Secretaries Rumsfeld and Gates.
Stroke and recovery
On January 23, 2012, Senator Kirk underwent surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago following a stroke; he underwent neurosurgery to remove two small pieces of brain tissue rendered dysfunctional by the stroke and he had a piece of his cranium temporarily removed to lessen any danger from the brain swelling process. His neurosurgeon, Dr. Fessler, expected him to have to spend a lengthy period in inpatient and outpatient stroke rehabilitation, but his cognitive functions, motor skills, and vital functions were largely unaffected by the stroke, save for the fact that his left side has a marked degree of weakness, which may improve during the healing process. Even barring any complications or further cerebrovascular incidents, it would still be months before any decision can be made about returning to the Senate.
On May 1, 2012, Kirk was sent home from a rehabilitation center. A statement from his family said the Illinois Republican would continue to work on rehabilitation on an outpatient basis, but that he has progressed enough to be able to move home with his family. A week later, Kirk’s staff released a video showing Kirk walking on a treadmill and down a hallway at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago as doctors work with him to help fully regain the use of his left side. A second video was released in August, showing Kirk is living at his Fort Sheridan, IL home, and while his left side still showed impairment, Kirk was walking without aid. According to an aide, his return to the Senate is expected in January 2013. On November 4, he participated in a "SkyRise Chicago" challenge to climb the stairs of Willis Tower, successfully completing 37 floors.