Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk scaled the 45 steps to the Capitol Thursday morning in a triumphant return to Congress nearly a year to the day after suffering a major stroke.
The Illinois senator, 53, had to re-learn how to walk, and still suffers some impairments from the stroke, reports the Chicago Tribune
. He was welcomed back by two prominent Democrats, Vice-President Joe Biden and fellow Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin.
The Capitol posed little problem for Kirk, who on Nov. 4 climbed 37 stories to reach the top of Chicago’s Willis Tower.
He told the Chicago Sun-Times
Wednesday he would be thinking of only one thing as he made his way to the Senate's front door. "Don't trip," he said. But he added that he hopes his climb will serve as an inspiration to other stroke victims not to give up and as proof that a stroke "is not the end of the world."
Kirk, whose left side is still impaired, now lives in a handicapped-accessible apartment on Capitol Hill. He walks with a cane and will use a wheelchair to get around the Capitol. The senator is also partially blind in his left eye, an aide told the Tribune.
The Senate now has two fewer Republicans, and Kirk is returning at a contentious time. He wasn’t there for the fiscal cliff vote, but will have to consider other tough issues. Before his stroke, Kirk was on the Appropriations, Banking, Health and Aging committees.
Doctors in Chicago who have watched Kirk’s progress said his mental and physical endurance may cause him some issues. He isn’t up for re-election until 2016, giving him some extra time before worrying how his illness will affect his campaign.
Meanwhile, he’s facing some legal issues. The Federal Election Commission, following up on reports from Kirk’s ex-wife, will be deciding whether the senator and his then-girlfriend, Dodie McCracken, broke campaign finance law when he was running for office in 2010. McCracken received more than $143,000 in fees and expenses paid from Kirk campaign accounts but her name wasn’t listed on any finance reports because she was paid through a company working for the campaign, according to the Tribune.
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