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Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkObamaCare repeal bill would defund Planned Parenthood Leaked ObamaCare bill would defund Planned Parenthood GOP senator won't vote to defund Planned Parenthood MORE (R-Ill.) broke with his party on Monday to back giving President Obama's Supreme Court nominee a hearing and a vote.
"I also recognize my duty as a senator to either vote in support or opposition to that nominee following a fair and thorough hearing along with a complete and transparent release of all requested information," Kirk wrote in a Chicago Sun-Times op-ed.
Kirk is one of the most vulnerable senators up for reelection in November, with Democrats seeing his seat in blue-leaning Illinois as a prime pick-up opportunity.
The senator had been under pressure from Democrats to clarify whether he agreed with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellSenate nixes Obama-era workplace safety rule Trump’s Transportation chief's Twitter account: ‘SUE HIS VERY SOUL’ Trump woos right with promise of Senate changes to ObamaCare replacement MORE's (R-Ky.) push to keep the court seat vacant until Obama's successor is sworn in.
Kirk's op-ed further highlights the division among Senate Republicans over how to handle the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
He is the first vulnerable incumbent to specifically back giving whoever Obama nominates a hearing and a vote, though Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyLive coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing Live coverage: Day two of Supreme Court nominee hearing Grassley, CNN host spar over Trump wiretap claims MORE (R-Iowa), who is up for reelection, has not ruled out a hearing before the Judiciary Committee.
Kirk, who is from Obama's home state, added that it is the "right of the president" to nominate someone to the Supreme Court, but that he hopes the president names someone who can "bridge differences" and "find common ground."
"Such a selection by the president would demonstrate a break from the rancor and partisanship of Washington and a real commitment to a new beginning even as his own term nears its end," he added.
But his comments come as many other vulnerable Republicans have rallied around McConnell's strategy and suggested that Democrats are trying to leapfrog the American people by filling the seat.
The GOP presidential field — including Donald TrumpDonald TrumpBudowsky: Trump’s war against truth GOP chairman calls for tighter sanctions on Russia Gorsuch hearings: A referendum on Originalism and corporate power MORE and Ted CruzTed CruzBudowsky: Trump’s war against truth Five takeaways from Labor pick’s confirmation hearing Republicans should seize the moment and repeal ObamaCare now MORE — has also backed letting the next president select Scalia's successor.
Democrats argue that Republicans are shirking their constitutional duties and have pledged to use the fight as fodder on the campaign trail.