Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Senator Mark Kirk Takes Oath of Office, and Gets Right to Work
Last night's swearing-in ceremony for now-Senator Mark Kirk was a truly amazing experience.
The evening began with a small group of about 100 of Senator Kirk's family, friends and die-hard supporters waiting anxiously in the U.S. Senate Gallery for the typical tardy appearance of Vice President Joe Biden who was to administer the oath to Mark. I had a few bad moments when I wondered if Biden was going to show, since that afternoon, Senator Al Franken was the designated senator presiding over the Senate, and I sure as heck didn't want to see Mr. Franken administer the oath (!) Former State Senate candidate Keith Gray and I had wandered over to the Capitol earlier in the afternoon and managed to get passes to see the Senate in action, and we were able to witness former Presidential candidate John Kerry give a speech supporting the START nuclear arms treaty. Franken looked extremely bored throughout his entire time on the dais, and I really wondered why he'd wanted to be become a U.S. Senator in the first place (actually, we know why - it's a very powerful position if you want to inflict your liberal agenda on the rest of the country). But I digress.
Kirk appeared on the floor of the Senate as VP Biden called the Senate to order, and Mark walked to the front of the room accompanied by Senator Dick Durbin, the Senior Illinois Senator, and Peter Fitzgerald, who was the previous Republican to hold the seat. The Bible used is an 1827 Bible used by Admiral David Farragut, who was the Navy's first admiral (his famous quote was "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!"). The Bible had arrived courtesy of the Navy in the keeping of two high-ranking officers with an awful lot of gold braid on their sleeves. Kirk took the oath, and received a lengthy standing ovation from the Gallery crowd, and then shook hands with the assembled Senators, including John McCain.
You can see ABC-7's video recap here:
After a brief re-enactment of the swearing in for the camera, Kirk arrived at the Russell Office Building to an enthusiastic crowd of at least 300 assembled in one of the main meeting halls. I stood outside the room and watched Senator Kirk make his entrance and then got on the phone to call in to Kerry Lester at the Daily Herald to give her an update.
I then took this picture from all the way in the back of the room, which will give you some idea of the size of the crowd:
Reader Daniel Wein from George Washington University sent in this picture (as well as the top photo above), and he was a little closer to the action:
Mark then addressed the crowd, and gave a great speech in which he told how humbled and honored he was to have been elected to the Senate, and that he pledged to work hard every day for the people of Illinois and the country. Kirk called on the family of fallen Marine Lance Corporal James Stack of northwest suburban Arlington Heights, who was killed in action on Nov. 10 in Afghanistan, and reaffirmed his commitment to support the nation's military, and protect its veterans, to the obvious delight of the many Navy personnel and other military types gathered in the room. There was a lot more, but as I commented to the Sun-Times' columnist and DC correspondent Lynn Sweet, who I was standing next to, the only thing you really needed to remember was Kirk's pledge to 'pay our bills,' reduce the size of government and grow the economy. She gave me a little smirk, so who knows if she'll actually print that (ha ha).
I saw a lot of people at the reception that I hadn't seen for a while, including Kirk's ex-wife Kimberly, many current and former Kirk staffers that I've known over the years, and lots and lots of folks from back in the 10th District like Vernon Hills Mayor Roger Byrne, who came out with his whole family. Congressman Bob Dold, who succeeded Kirk in his 10th District Congressional seat, was also there.
We then proceeded to a little after-party at Dubliner's Irish Pub, which went on long after Mark left. The only picture I decided to share from that was this shot of Mark and Campaign Chairman Mike Morgan, so you can see how excited and happy everyone was. Sorry, but the rest of the pix are all highly classified...
It was truly a historic campaign and a great victory. Now it's time to go on to the real work. Senator Kirk plans to get right down to it, and his first bill will be a “budget control bill” aimed at helping the federal government find ways to cut costs by developing expert recommendations on eliminating waste and creating strenuous oversight of spending. Kirk's “Spending Control Act of 2011” would re-establish the Grace Commission of the 1980s to investigate government waste and identify programs that could be eliminated with an up or down vote of the full House and Senate.
I also want to wrap up by adding that given the tensions in North Korea and other international problems, I could not be more pleased and confident that someone of Mark's qualifications and caliber is now serving us in the U.S. Senate.
My work here is done, so it's back to sunny Chicago!