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Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker has Sen. Dick Durbin’s support to become Commerce Secretary, but Sen. Mark Kirk is on the fence.
Kirk, an Illinois Republican, told the Tribune on Monday that while he had met recently with Pritzker, whose confirmation hearing is Thursday, he had not made up his mind on whether to support her. She’s been making the rounds on Capitol Hill visiting with lawmakers before the hearing.
Kirk spoke briefly to the paper after making remarks to the Illinois Group, a Washington-based group that promotes businesses from the state. He returned to the Senate in January after a major stroke a year earlier and has just begun appearing at events in public. The group’s 25th anniversary was marked with an evening reception in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Organizers said 200 people turned out to the event.
Speaking clearly but with some hesitancy, Kirk said he wanted to foster a “new optimism for our state” and “rewrite the feelings about our state after the Blagojevich mess.” He referred to the former governor now imprisoned for public corruption, including trying to sell or trade the Senate seat that Kirk won in 2010.
Kirk told the gathering that he was eager to see a new U.S. attorney appointed, wanted to make it a priority to get the Gangster Disciples off the streets and, with Durbin, was seeking federal funding to improve locks and dams on the Mississippi River and make the waterway a “huge, export drag strip for Illinois agriculture.”
Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, is a big booster of Pritzker, a Hyatt Hotels heiress who has helped fund his campaigns. He told the paper as he left the Illinois event that she would make an “outstanding” Cabinet secretary and he would do everything he could to advance her nomination.
When asked if he saw hurdles to her confirmation, he cautioned that Republicans are sometimes determined to filibuster or slow down appointments.