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Bipartisan Kirk back in nick of time

Sidelined for a year because of a stroke, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is slated to return to work next week. His bipartisan leadership is sorely needed in an era of “fiscal cliff” politics.

Published: Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT

If all goes as planned, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk will return to work on Jan. 3.

That’s good news for Illinois and the nation.

The 53-year-old Illinois Republican, elected in 2010, has been sidelined by health issues since Jan. 21, when he suffered a serious stroke.

Medical officials said they found and repaired a tear in the carotid artery on the right side of Kirk’s neck, but some brain cells died, which affected the left side of his body.

Kirk’s mental faculties were said to be unaffected. However, doctors said a full physical recovery was not likely. His speech also was affected.

If anyone can overcome such a diagnosis, it would be Kirk.

Months ago, the Naval Reserve officer set a goal for himself of walking up the Capitol steps when he returns to work.

To achieve that goal, Kirk has been involved with vigorous experimental therapy. He engages in longer workouts than usually prescribed for stroke victims.

The therapy seems to be working.

Last month, Kirk engaged in some step-climbing practice in a very public way: He climbed 37 floors inside the Willis Tower in Chicago as part of a charity fundraiser.

Kirk’s ability to ascend those Capitol steps is not as important as his ability to work with lawmakers inside the Capitol.

Illinois’ junior senator is known for his prowess at collaborating with lawmakers of all political persuasions. In fact, one of his best friends in the Senate is a Democrat from West Virginia, Joe Manchin.

Kirk’s return coincides with a crisis – the “fiscal cliff” and its threatened tax hikes and budget cuts if President Obama, the House and Senate can’t come to an agreement by Monday.

Whether Kirk will have any say in how the crisis is resolved is not known.

However, in an era of “fiscal cliff” politics, Kirk’s bipartisan approach to solving problems is sorely needed on Capitol Hill.

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