Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkGOP senators propose sending ISIS fighters to Gitmo VA chief 'deeply' regrets if Disney comment offended vets Senate GOP gears up for fight over Gitmo transfers 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 McConnellRyan seeks to put stamp on GOP in Trump era Trump and Ryan to speak by phone Bill would require nominees to release tax returns 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 GrassleyDefense bill renews fight over military sexual assault Reid knocks GOP over 'light' Senate schedule Overnight Tech: Facebook finds no bias but vows to change trending feature 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 TrumpFreedom Caucus Chair: I'm enthusiastically supporting Trump Trump: 'I’ve used aliases’ Why Obama's visit to Hiroshima matters MORE and Ted CruzTed CruzEleven states sue Obama over transgender bathroom directive Poll: Clinton leads Trump in Wisconsin by double digits GOP senators propose sending ISIS fighters to Gitmo 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.