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updated: 8/10/2011 6:36 PM

Kirk: Congress needs to step up, head back to Capitol

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  • Bob Chwedyk/bchwedyk@dailyherald.comSen. Mark Kirk is calling for Congress to return to Washington D.C. to address the nation's debt issue. He met Wednesday with the Daily Herald editorial board.

      Bob Chwedyk/bchwedyk@dailyherald.comSen. Mark Kirk is calling for Congress to return to Washington D.C. to address the nation's debt issue. He met Wednesday with the Daily Herald editorial board.

 
By Kerry Lester
Politics and Projects Writer
klester@dailyherald.com

With financial markets sharply down in the wake of the country's credit downgrade, Sen. Mark Kirk is calling for Congress to return to Washington to address the debt issue.

"The president has the power to recall us. Honestly, I don't know why he didn't," said Kirk, a Republican from Highland Park, who also took a dig at President Obama's family vacation to Martha's Vineyard.

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"He's tired. But the markets are coming down," Kirk said.

The Dow Jones industrial average took a 519 point tumble Wednesday, obliterating Tuesday's 429 point climb. It was the ninth worst drop in the index's history.

Kirk, speaking to the Daily Herald editorial board Wednesday, said nothing would reassure the markets more than seeing lawmakers back in the capital, perhaps as early as next Monday.

Obama press secretary Jay Carney has defended Obama's vacation plans, saying the president will travel with his staff, receive regular briefings and be able to return to Washington if necessary.

While critical of Obama, Kirk offered praise for the "Gang of Six," the bipartisan Senate deficit reduction committee on which Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin is a member.

The Gang in July proposed a plan that would institute spending caps and government program cuts, as well as more than $1 trillion in tax cuts.

The debt ceiling deal, reached last week hours before a potential government default, Kirk noted, "has been unable to defend the credit rating of the United States."

Kirk said he reached out to the Gang of Six Tuesday, hours before party leaders announced their picks for members of a bipartisan supercommittee tasked with reducing the country's deficit by $1.5 trillion.

With six Democrats and six Republicans on the committee, Kirk acknowledged a potential for partisan gridlock.

"I would have liked it if the Democratic leadership appoint Republicans to the committee and the Republicans appoint the Democrats," Kirk said. "The chance of getting an outcome would have been much higher," he said.

To help things move forward, Kirk said he thinks the Gang of Six "should testify before the joint committee on the first day, to set the tone."

At the same time he criticized the president, Kirk said he thinks Congress "is doing a fairly bad job," and called for more bipartisanship, particularly in the upper chamber.

"If the president's checked out, we have to step up," he said.

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