Congressman Randy Hultgren is the latest in a long list of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to lend a hand in the advancement of Sen. Mark Kirk's work as the Highland Park Republican continues to recover from a late January stroke.
But Hultgren, a Winfield Republican, is perhaps the first to stand directly in the line of fire regarding Kirk's office communications policy on the senator's medical condition.
During a news conference Wednesday in Kirk's downtown Chicago office, Hultgren presented an update to Kirk's October report on Illinois' continually deteriorating fiscal situation, then was peppered with questions from reporters about the senator's recovery.
Hultgren, a former state lawmaker elected to the 14th Congressional District in 2010, began working with Kirk's office on the presentation of the report several weeks ago. The report stresses that state lawmakers must reach across the aisle to work toward pension reforms and spending cuts for the state in order to whittle down its current $6.2 billion backlog of unpaid bills.
Hultgren said he had yet to speak with Kirk, but planned to later on Wednesday.
"Everything I hear is very good," he said.
Hultgren called Kirk a "fighter" that the U.S. Senate needs in the midst of its own budget decisions, but noted that Kirk should be given "all the time that he needs" to fully recover from the stroke, which affected the left side of his body.
"I know it is going to be a long process," he said of Kirk's recovery.
Kirk's staff and family have left all medical condition updates to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, the facility where the senator is undergoing physical therapy. Reporters were reminded of that Wednesday, as Hultgren insisted there was no one present at the office who could comment on Kirk's condition.
One member of the Illinois delegation -- Congressman John Shimkus of downstate Collinsville -- has personally visited Kirk.
Hultgren said he spoke to Shimkus about that visit.
"It was very positive. Everything I heard ... was that recovery was going well," Hultgren said. "And everything we've heard from the doctors as well is that everything is moving forward."
In the meantime, Hultgren said, the Illinois delegation is "still continuing with great support from Kirk and his office, but we're all recognizing we've got to come together and be a team."