Kirk Plans to Return to Senate at Start of New Congress

After major stroke, GOP senator ready to keep Iran in check

Sen. Mark Kirk / AP


Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) is recovering quickly after suffering a near-fatal stroke last January. He plans to join the new Congress on Jan. 3 to continue his campaign for Iranian economic sanctions, the Weekly Standard reports.

Last week, Kirk’s office announced that he will be back in Washington in January in time for the next session. That would mark a full year since his stroke, and nearly a year into maximum-force sanctions that have devastated the Iranian currency but haven’t halted the regime’s nuclear program.

In the months Kirk was away, Iran increased its supply of 20 percent-enriched uranium by one-third; it doubled the number of nuclear centrifuges at its underground Qom facility between May and August, according to a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Kirk, for his part, is working on new legislation expanding banking and energy sanctions, which he plans to introduce toward the end of the year.

Kirk and Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N,J.) fought for passage of the "Kirk-Menendez sanctions," an amendment which prevents the U.S. from doing any business with foreign financial institutions supporting the Central Bank of Iran.

Throughout his recovery process, Kirk stayed focused on Iran and connected to his office in Washington.

Kirk has also been in touch with the Israeli embassy and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In March, Kirk watched Netanyahu’s annual address to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee from the inpatient room at his rehab center. "I want to say a special message to a great friend of Israel who’s not here tonight, Senator Mark Kirk," said Netanyahu. "Senator Kirk, I know you’re watching this tonight. Please get well soon. America needs you. Israel needs you." The audience erupted in applause.

Not long after, Kirk called his Washington staff and asked them to offer an amendment on his behalf expanding banking sanctions and targeting Iran’s energy and insurance sectors. The proposals were met with strong private resistance from the White House and Senate Democratic leadership, which first tried to block them and then added language watering them down.

Of course, neither the White House nor Democratic leadership wanted to publicly stand in the way of sanctions, and Republicans managed to add binding provisions in conference. It wasn’t everything Kirk had hoped for, but it was close. In August, President Obama signed the bill into law.

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