Remembering the beginnings of Kirk's bipartisan veterans plan
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk's bipartisan plan to help veterans - one that first began to materialize through a conversation between Democratic colleagues in the wake of his stroke last year - is formally taking off in the 113th Congress.
The Highland Park Republican's office tells us that Wednesday, Kirk, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, Republican Rep. Jeff Denham, of California, and Democratic Rep. Tim Walz, of Minnesota - co-chairs of the Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus - held a "Day on the Hill" session highlighting the caucus' commitment to increasing veterans employment.
Reading the office's statement about the caucus, we were reminded of a heartwarming story that came shortly after Kirk's Jan. 21 ischemic stroke.
Manchin, with whom Kirk shortly after his 2010 swearing in, established a weekly lunching tradition, traveled to visit his friend at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, bringing him cards signed by all the members of the upper chamber.
Returning to Washington, Illinois senior Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said, Manchin checked in and detailed a number of "good, positive developments."
Manchin also spoke to Durbin about a piece of legislation close to Kirk's heart, as a naval reservist. The measure would help unemployed veterans find jobs.
"Joe said, 'I think we oughta move the bill,'" Durbin told us at the time. "I said, 'Let's do it.'"
The caucus was formally launched last March.
There are currently thirty-eight Senators and forty-six Representatives that have signed on, according to Manchin's office. Twenty-four veteran or military service organizations have endorsed it.