Durbin Pays Tribute To U.S. Senator Mark Kirk On Senate Floor

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) paid tribute today to U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), on the United States Senate Floor:
“For the last six years, Senator Mark Kirk and I have had a very positive and professional relationship. I thank him for his service to our state, the service he’s given our nation as an officer in the Navy Reserve, for the years that he put in as a staff member to Congressman John Porter, for the work that he did in the House of Representatives representing the 10th Congressional District, and for his term here in the United States Senate,” said Durbin. “It has been a pleasure and an honor to serve with him despite our political differences. I count him as a friend, as an ally, and a true champion for the state of Illinois. I wish my colleague Mark Kirk the very best in his future endeavors.”
Video of Durbin’s remarks is available here.
Durbin’s remarks as prepared for delivery are available below:
Remarks of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin
Honoring U.S. Senator Mark Kirk
December 1, 2016
For the last six years, Mark and I have had a close personal and working relationship.
We didn’t always agree on the issues, but there is a mutual respect for each other—a respect that is often lacking in our politics today.
In 1985, my mentor—Senator Paul Simon—launched the Illinois Hospitality Breakfast series.  For one hour, every Thursday morning the Senate’s in session, Senator Simon invited his constituents visiting Washington, D.C., for coffee and a conversation.
And there’s only one rule.  If you want to make a speech, you have to run for office. A rule that Mark quickly reminds me to share with the audience when I forget.
Today, we simply call it constituent coffee. And in 2011, when Mark was sworn into the Senate, despite party differences, we kept the tradition alive.
But this should come as no surprise to anyone who knows Mark. After all, one of his legacies will surely be his bipartisanship approach to politics. Just ask his good friend—Senator Joe Manchin—a Democrat from West Virginia.
Mark and Joe entered the Senate together and decided this place could use a little more reaching across the aisle.
So, they decided to meet every Thursday for lunch in the Senate dining room. They understood that making real progress, on real issues, meant talking to each other. And their efforts should be applauded.
Mark’s been a strong advocate for people in Illinois—and after going through the health crisis he endured several years ago—a source of inspiration.
You see, in 2012, Mark had a stroke. It came as quite a shock. I remember his doctor coming out and telling us what we could expect.
I’ll spare the details, but it wasn’t encouraging. But I knew that Mark would fight back. After all, he’s a Navy Reserve officer.  
During his recovery, Mark drew strength from one of our former colleagues—Tim Johnson, who suffered a similar accident.
While in rehab, he would spend much of his time asking himself, “What would Tim Johnson do?”
Mark will be the same source of inspiration for future generations. When many may have called it quits, Mark never did.
I remember one of our phone calls during his rehab.
He said he asked his staff to count the steps from where he would park outside up to the Senate Chamber. It was 45 steps back to the Senate Chamber.
I will never forget that day when Mark returned to those steps to make the climb.
As Mark made his way to the main staircase, I stood waiting to greet him with Vice-President Biden and Senator Manchin. It was a great day.
His return brought out the humanity of the Senate.
We put aside the fighting and party labels, and we showed that when it gets down to it we are part of a family that really cares about one another.
Even more importantly, his return marked an amazing recovery.
And I, along with all of his colleagues, were grateful.
He carried on and never stopped working on his recovery—and never stopped working for the people of Illinois.
Let me close with this. When Mark entered the Senate, he said in his maiden speech—quote:  “In times of great uncertainty, we need to come together—Republicans…Democrats… independents—to build consensus, find solutions and improve the lives of the people we represent.”
I agree.
Once again, we find ourselves in uncertain times.
Well, I know Mark isn’t done yet. He has plenty more to do.
I’ll miss Mark’s company in the Senate and at constituent coffees next year, but this is not his final act. Not by a long a shot.
I know Mark will continue to serve the people of Illinois and all Americans with the same passion and intensity he displayed in this chamber.
And I wish him all the best in the next chapter of his life.