Photo by Al Podgorski, Chicago Sun-Times
Updated with Collinsville event...
Illinois Senate GOP nominee Rep. Mark Kirk is hitting southern and central Illinois this week--his first public stops since his military record embellishment controversy--while taking his time in deciding some potentially contentious issues.
Kirk was scheduled to fly to St. Louis on Tuesday, in order to campaign in the Illinois Metro East area on Wednesday. On Wednesday afternoon, Kirk will meet with local GOP leaders at Porter's Steakhouse in Collinsville. Kirk hits Quincy on Thursday and Springfield on Friday.
Kirk held a press conference at the Westin River North, in a room overlooking the Chicago River, where he talked about Lake Michigan water quality and how he and Democratic Senate contender Alexi Giannoulias are divided over the need to reverse, in the years ahead, the flow of the Chicago River. The water quality message was tailored for Chicago and the collar suburbs and will not be repeated Downstate.
Kirk is against, Giannoulias for reversing the river. The issue first came up on June 21, when I asked about the long range plans for the river and Lake Michigan at a Senate forum sponsored by the Metropolitan Planning Council.
The room was booked because it had a stunning view of the river and Kirk's podium was originally set in front of the window. But the backlighting was bad for the television cameras, so the shades were drawn and the view blocked.
After a discussion about water issues, Kirk took questions.
GIANNOULIAS, BRADY INCOME TAXES
* Kirk blasted Giannoulias for not having to pay state or federal income taxes because of the big losses he took when the family owned Broadway Bank failed. But in taking Giannoulias down, Kirk took with him GOP candidate for governor Bill Brady, who also paid nothing because of losses in his family business.
REPEAL OF OBAMA HEALTH CARE LAW
*Kirk is tiptoeing around a landmine he buried when he called earlier in the year for the repeal of the Obama health insurance law. I've asked Kirk twice now about whether he will sign a discharge petition to get the ball rolling for repeal. He's avoiding an answer for now; he faces a political problem no matter where he goes at this point.
If he does not sign, he's walking away from his call to repeal and that could hurt him with the GOP base. If he does sign, it will activate in a nanosecond Democrats and the Obama White House, who will want to defend one of Obama's legacy achievements.
As of July 1, a discharge petition--the first step needed to get the matter back before the House-- by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has 109 signers. The group includes Illinois House Republicans Judy Biggert, Peter Roskam, Don Manzullo and John Shimkus.
Last week Kirk said he had yet to study the repeal matter fully but since it was law, he wanted to make sure the regulations were written to the advantage of Illinois. On Tuesday Kirk told me, "I haven't got back to that, I haven't read it yet."
RNC CHAIRMAN STEELE: SHOULD HE RESIGN?
*On whether embattled Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele should resign, Kirk said, "I agree with Sen. (Lindsey) Graham that it is up to chairman Steele to reassess his position and ability to lead the party forward, pretty strongly with that view."
ELENA KAGAN CONFIRMATION
*Kirk is still undecided on whether he would vote to confirm Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court. Last week, Kirk avoided an answer as the hearings were going on. With the hearings completed, Kirk was asked again and he said he is still studying her record, including over the July 4 holiday.
Said Kirk, "I reviewed her record and her testimony..spent the weekend going through the cases she argued as our solicitor general. Now I am going through the submissions for the record where sometimes almost the key details come out. This is one of the most important and careful decisions that a senator should make. After I finish the review of the submission for the record, will render my judgement."
below, Kirk press release....
Kirk Pledges to Fight against Lake Michigan Sewage Dumping in the Senate
Congressman disagrees with Giannoulias on re-reversing flow of Chicago River citing public health risks, unknown economic costs;
Kirk: "We should ban all sewage dumping into Lake Michigan."
CHICAGO - Coming off the Fourth of July holiday and with the summer beach season underway, Congressman Mark Kirk today underlined his commitment to banning all sewage dumping in the Great Lakes.
"The Great Lakes are the crown jewel of the Midwest and provide drinking water to 40 million people," said Congressman Kirk, a co-chair of the bipartisan Great Lakes Task Force. "As a Senator, I will fight to protect Lake Michigan and work to ban all sewage dumping into the Great Lakes."
Last year, Congressman Kirk joined with Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-IL) to introduce the Great Lakes Water Protection Act (H.R. 54), which would ban sewage dumping in the lakes. Congressman Kirk also supported the Clean Coastal Environment and Public Health Act of 2009 (H.R.2093) last year, which would reauthorize the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act through 2014.
An EPA study cited by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimated that nearly 300 people could expect to contract a respiratory illness after swimming in Lake Michigan in Chicago on one summer weekend due to elevated pathogen levels in the water. According to the NRDC, closings and/or advisories were issued for 49 beaches in the Chicago area at some point in 2008.
According to a 2007 study by the Environmental Protection Agency, there are roughly 30 communities whose sewage overflow enters the Lake Michigan basin.
During the press conference, Congressman Kirk noted his disagreement with opponent Alexi Giannoulias with regard to re-reversing the flow of the Chicago River. Last month, Giannoulias told a gathering hosted by the Metropolitan Planning Council that he would support such a plan.
"Chicago made the right decision more than a century ago to reverse the flow of the Chicago River, protect the region's drinking water and keep the shores of Lake Michigan clean," Congressman Kirk said. "Instead of dumping the Chicago River into the lake, I will fight to end all ban sewage dumping into Lake Michigan."
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