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113th Congress Features Kirk's Return To Senate, Duckworth Swearing-In

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jan 3, 2013 5:40PM

The 113th Congress is set to be sworn in Thursday with 84 freshmen congressmen and 12 new senators taking their seats and diving head first into the gridlock that made the previous Congress so popular with voters.

The Illinois Congressional delegation has some new faces and a familiar one in Sen. Mark Kirk, who is returning to the Senate for the first time in nearly a year. Kirk suffered a debilitating stroke last January and has been on a medical leave of absence since. In contrast to the medical leave of absence of former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Kirk has provided regular updates on his rehabilitation progress throughout his recovery and said his immediate goal was to climb the 45 steps from the parking lot to the doors of the Senate. Kirk will be greeted by Vice President Joe Biden at the doors of the Senate after he makes that climb later Thursday.

Kirk told the Daily Herald the breakthrough moment in his ordeal was when he awoke and saw three angels at the foot of his bed in Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Intensive Care Unit and that the experience steeled his resolve to “never give up.”

Throughout his rehabilitation, one goal was in mind.

"I kept imagining going back to work," Kirk said, "and the irreducible physical amount of effort I had to put in."

Kirk also had a message to others who suffered from a stroke.

“The problem is not whether this stroke is completely debilitating. What I want to say is, be an example to my fellow stroke patients. Hopefully, their family will say: ‘Dad, don’t give up, Sen. Kirk, after all, is climbing the steps of the Capitol after rehab,’ ” he said. “One of the really nice things we have that God grants us, is that rehab does work. A stroke is not the end of the world, you will come back.”
Kirk told ABC 7’s Paul Meincke in November his primary legislative goal is to pass legislation banning the dumping of sewage in the Great Lakes. He told the Sun-Times he would support an assault weapons ban and sources told the Sun-Times Kirk has a new perspective on the Illinois Medicaid program and how it affects low income families.

Illinois Republicans lost congressional seats in the November elections and the highest-profile Democrat heading to the Beltway is Eighth Congressional District Rep. Tammy Duckworth. Duckworth beat Tea Party loudmouth Joe Walsh with 55 percent of the vote in November and will be sworn in at the Disabled American Veterans office at 3 p.m. Duckworth’s office released a statement thanking voters in her district “for giving me the great honor of serving them in Congress.” Duckworth has made transportation her primary issue.