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Kirk says he would support an assault weapons ban

Mark Kirk

Mark Kirk

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Updated: February 4, 2013 2:48PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A year after suffering a stroke, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is back in Washington and ready to work, saying he would support an assault weapons ban and has a new perspective on the Illinois Medicaid program.

The Highland Park Republican also said he would not get involved in endorsing a candidate if there’s a contested Republican gubernatorial primary in Illinois.

Kirk talked in a sit-down interview in the U.S. Capitol one day before he plans a dramatic climb up the Capitol steps after suffering a stroke.

“I will look much more carefully at the Illinois Medicaid program to see how my fellow citizens are being cared for who have no income and if they suffer from a stroke,” Kirk said Wednesday.

He said in general a person on Medicaid would be allowed 11 rehab visits in Illinois. “Had I been limited to that I would have had no chance to recover like I did. So unlike before suffering the stroke, I’m much more focused on Medicaid and what my fellow citizens face.”

Since last year, Kirk has endured an aggressive rehabilitation, including considerable time on the treadmill, which he calls “the dreadmill.” He suffers from paralysis on the left side of his body, which means he had to relearn how to walk.

Sitting in a recording studio in the Capitol, it was clear Kirk remained mentally sharp a year after enduring intensive surgery to relieve his brain swelling.

He’s learning Mandarin and Polish and spoke different words with pretty precise pronunciation. Physically, he revealed more symptoms, the left side of his face stiff, sometimes halting as he spoke and his thoughts appearing to be ahead of his speech at times.

Kirk said he wants to give some people hope after suffering a stroke.

“The problem is not whether this stroke is completely debilitating. What I want to say is, be an example to my fellow stroke patients. Dad, don’t give up, Senator Kirk after all, is climbing the steps of the Capitol after rehab,” he said. “A stroke is not the end of the world, you will come back.”

As for an assault weapons ban: “I support it,” Kirk said.

Kirk said he would have voted “no” in the deal that ultimately ended the Fiscal Cliff late Tuesday.

“For me, I will say the thing is that I miss most, is to apply what I’ve learned to be more compassionate and to break the partisan rancor that is so evident lately,” Kirk said of the recent political wrangling.

If he could talk directly to Illinois constituents, Kirk said he would say: “Thank you for the honor of representing you. You now have a senator who is totally focused on those who go through stroke and how we can recover their lives and make sure they have a chance to come all the way back.”

What will he be thinking as he climbs up the steps?

“Don’t trip.”

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