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Article updated: 2/14/2012 6:54 PM

Democrat pushes SUGAR Act on Kirk's behalf

Sen. Mark Kirk is recovering from a stroke he suffered in late January.

Sen. Mark Kirk is recovering from a stroke he suffered in late January.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

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Another colleague from the other side of the aisle has joined in advancing U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk's priorities as he recovers in Chicago from the stroke he suffered last month.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, Tuesday encouraged colleagues to support the bipartisan SUGAR Act, which she and the Highland Park Republican introduced last Valentine's Day but has yet to advance to the floor for a vote.

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The legislation would phase out the U.S. Sugar program, the commodity support program that sets minimum prices and is designed to protect sugar beet and sugarcane growers.

Both Kirk and Shaheen say the program keeps prices far higher than they should be, at the expense of candy makers and other food manufacturers across the country.

Shaheen Tuesday referred to the program as a "sweetheart deal" for the sugar industry that needs to end.

"There's simply no reason to continue a program that makes candy makers, bakers and other food manufacturers in our states pay double the world average price for sugar," she said.

Shaheen also wished Kirk a speedy recovery, and said she is looking forward to his return and the future bipartisan legislation they will author together.

Kirk inherited a "sweet" deal of his own following his election to the Senate in November 2010 -- temporary ownership of the famous "candy desk," an assignment which he uses to promote Illinois candy companies.

In 1965, Sen. George Murphy, a California Republican, originated the practice of keeping a supply of candy in his desk for his fellow senators. Since then, the "candy desk" has been located in the back area of the Republican side, close to the chamber's most heavily used entrance.

Kirk volunteered for the candy desk assignment with competition from Sen. Pat Toomey, who represents Pennsylvania and its large number of jobs associated with Hershey's.

Kirk provides Illinois-made candies to the Senate at his own expense.

Shaheen joins Democratic senators Dick Durbin of Illinois, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who have offered judicial appointment recommendations and introduced pieces of legislation on Kirk's behalf.

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