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Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkDuckworth announces reelection bid Brave new world: Why we need a Senate Human Rights Commission Senate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls 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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money — McConnell searches for debt deal votes GOP working to lock down votes on McConnell debt deal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Debt limit maneuvers; Biden warns Putin 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 GrassleyOvernight Defense & National Security — Biden: US troops to Ukraine 'not on the table' Gillibrand slams committee leadership, Pentagon for military justice reform cuts Former Sen. Bob Dole dies at 98 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 TrumpJury in Jussie Smollett trial begins deliberations Pence says he'll 'evaluate' any requests from Jan. 6 panel Biden's drug overdose strategy pushes treatment for some, prison for others MORE and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzInstagram chief gets bipartisan grilling over harm to teens McConnell faces GOP pushback on debt deal Democrats seek to avoid internal disputes over Russia and China 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.