WASHINGTON -- Sen. Mark Kirk, who suffered a stroke last weekend, recently returned from a five-day official trip to Poland, and a congressman who accompanied him said he showed no sign of illness during the trip — just the opposite.
“He was vibrant, perky, all fire, ready to go,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, a Chicago Democrat who joined the Republican senator on the trip ending Jan. 14.
The two lawmakers were in Poland to meet with top officials on U.S. missile defense, the visa-waiver program and other issues. Quigley said overseas trips “can be taxing. There are long flights, you don’t get a lot of sleep and you turn right around.”
For 21 years, John Porter held the House seat that Kirk won in 2000, representing Chicago’s north suburbs. And Kirk was his chief of staff. Like many, Porter said Monday that Kirk’s stroke “was a shock” because Kirk he was “so vital.”
He recalled that while Kirk was his chief of staff – “a full-time-and-a-half job to start with”-- Kirk attended Georgetown Law School at night to earn his degree. “So you know what a hard-charger he was,” said Porter, a partner with the Washington law firm of Hogan Lovells.
“I think Mark’s been quite attentive to his health,” Porter said. “He’s always pushed himself hard, but I think he’s been very careful with his diet and trying to do the right things and get exercise, and you just never know.”
Kirk’s Illinois colleague in the Senate, Democratic Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, issued a statement saying he was “stunned” and adding, “He is young and in good physical condition and I have no doubt he will make a speedy recovery.”
Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky spoke on the Senate floor and expressed best wishes for Kirk.
“It’s moments like these that we’re reminded of how fragile life is and (that) there are far more important things than politics,” McConnell said.
Kirk had planned to sit with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia at Tuesday night’s State of the Union address as an expression of bipartisanship. Manchin, in a statement, said: “While I’ll miss him at the State of Union … I promised Mark that I will keep his seat warm.”
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has been endorsed by Kirk, said in a statement that we was “extremely distressed” by the news and wished Kirk a “speedy recovery.”