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Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkJuan Williams: McConnell won big by blocking Obama Battle for the Senate: Top of ticket dominates The untold stories of the 2016 battle for the Senate 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 fight over miners' heathcare boils over Congress to clear path for Mattis Senate holds two-hour Biden lovefest 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 GrassleyBusiness groups express support for Branstad nomination 10 no-brainer ways to cut healthcare costs without hurting quality Senate GOP: National museum should include Clarence Thomas 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 TrumpPence's praise of Carrier union boss resurfaces after Trump tweet Becerra: California ready to fight Trump administration Twitter CEO says his feelings about Trump's tweets are 'complicated' MORE and Ted CruzTed CruzCruz defends Trump's Taiwan call Ark., Texas senators put cheese dip vs. queso to the test Pentagon's suppressed waste report only tip of the inefficient machine 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.