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Sen. Mark Kirk Targets January Return

By Chuck Sudo in News on Nov 8, 2012 3:30PM

While Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s medical leave of absence continues in bizzare fashion, another member of Illinois' congressional delegation battling his own medical issues is planning a long-anticipated return to work.

Sen. Mark Kirk told ABC 7 he plans on returning to work in January. He was interviewed after voting and said his immediate goal is to "climb the 45 steps that my staff counted from the parking lot to the front door of the Senate." Kirk suffered a stroke in January, had several brain surgeries after, and has been undergoing physical therapy at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

In contrast to the secrecy that surrounded the early part of Jackson's medical leave of absence, Kirk has been largely transparent about his recovery, has provided regular updates on his progress and released a video in September attacking state lawmakers for not working on pension reform and causing Illinois' credit rating to be downgraded.

Kirk climbed 37 flights of stairs inside Sears Tower Sunday as part of the Rehabilitation Institute's Stair Climb and gave his first post-stroke interview to NBC 5's Mary Ann Ahern. He told ABC 7's Paul Meinke his priority for the upcoming Congress is to pass legislation banning the dumping of sewage in the Great Lakes.

The lengthy absences of Jackson and Kirk prompted Better Government Association president and CEO Andy Shaw to pen an editorial calling for "temporary replacements" for legislators sidelined for long stretches of time by illness.

We can’t prevent an unexpected calamity that sidelines an elected representative. But we should be able to prevent an unintended consequence that’s also calamitous: Hundreds of thousands of constituents left on the sidelines of democracy.