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Why Kirk Is Right In Pushing For A Senate Vote On Judge Garland

May 2, 2016 | Crain's Chicago Business

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is working to break through the polarizing partisanship that stalls Washington.

Kirk was the first Republican senator to meet with President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, and the first to call for hearings and a vote on Garland’s confirmation. In meeting with Garland, Kirk called on his fellow senators to fulfill their responsibility to provide advice and consent on lifetime judicial and executive branch nominations.

Kirk’s meeting with Garland extends his record of assessing Obama’s nominees on their merits, enabling them to present their credentials and views and receive a vote.

Following the resignation of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, Kirk collaborated with Illinois Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin to form a nonpartisan committee charged with identifying a candidate able to continue Fitzgerald’s crime-fighting tradition. The committee concluded Zachary Fardon was the person for the job, and Kirk and Durbin recommended him to the White House. Kirk then pressed fellow Republicans to hold a prompt vote on Fardon. Led by our state’s senators, Fardon was confirmed with support from both parties.

There are often divisions when a state is represented by senators of opposing parties. But reflexive partisanship has not characterized the relationship of Durbin and Kirk. Responsible cooperation between them opened the door to two Kirk-recommended federal judges with strong law enforcement backgrounds. Judge Manish Shah, the first South Asian-American on the federal bench in Illinois, led prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago before becoming a district judge. Likewise, Judge Jack Blakey previously served as chief of the special prosecutions bureau at the Cook County state’s attorney’s office and successfully prosecuted gang members and human traffickers.

During his years in the Senate, Kirk has voted across the aisle for other judges and executive appointees. After Obama nominated Loretta Lynch to lead the Justice Department as attorney general, Kirk met with her to discuss her approach toward criminal justice and how best to combat street gangs. Following their meeting, Kirk tipped the Senate’s political scales by voting to confirm Lynch. Earlier, Kirk acted against the wishes of the National Rifle Association, casting an important vote for the first full-time director in years of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Confirmation of B. Todd Jones refocused the ATF and its ballistics program on targeting shooters and the sources of crime guns that have plagued Chicago. Kirk made Illinois concerns his focus and evaluated the nominees from an Illinois perspective.

Senate Republicans should now follow Kirk’s lead on Garland, voting him up or down on his long judicial record and considerable merit. Chief Justice John Roberts recently noted that a “divisive” Senate confirmation process causes people to mistakenly think Supreme Court justices “work as Republicans or Democrats.” As Kirk’s independent approach reflects, good judges put the law first and are not tools of political parties.

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Mark Kirk in the News

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July 22, 2016 | Crain's Chicago Business

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