PI Original Ellyn Fortino Monday March 21st, 2016, 4:08pm

Illinoisans Urge Kirk To Press For Senate Action On Obama's SCOTUS Nominee (VIDEO)

Illinoisans protested outside the federal building in Chicago, calling on U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) to do more when it comes to pressing for Senate action on President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee. Progress Illinois was there for the demonstration, which included a MoveOn.org petition delivery to Kirk's office. 

About 50 Illinoisans protested outside the federal building in Chicago Monday afternoon, calling on U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) to press for a Senate hearing and vote on President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, federal appeals judge Merrick Garland.

The group delivered a MoveOn.org petition with their demands to Kirk's office. As of Monday afternoon, 788 people had signed the online petition.

"Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk has said that he will meet with Judge Garland," the MoveOn petition reads. "But as Judge Garland's home state Republican Senator, we in Illinois need Mark Kirk to do more. We need Mark Kirk to press his own Republican leaders for a debate and vote on Judge Garland's nomination."

According to organizers, Monday's protest targeting Kirk was part of a national day of action spearheaded by progressive groups, such as MoveOn.org Civic Action and CREDO Action, to demand that the Republican-led Senate consider Obama's SCOTUS nominee.

Check out scenes from the Chicago demonstration and petition delivery:

Obama nominated Garland Wednesday to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created after Justice Antonin Scalia's unexpected death last month. Garland, an Illinois native who attended high school in Skokie, has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 1997 and is currently its chief judge.

Senate Republicans have vowed against holding a vote or hearing on a Supreme Court nominee until after the next elected president takes office.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reiterated that position after Obama announced Garland as his Supreme Court nominee. Speaking Wednesday on the Senate floor, McConnell stressed the importance of giving "the people a voice in the filling of this vacancy."

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL,8), who is running against Kirk in the November general election for U.S. Senate, issued a statement Wednesday blasting the GOP for its stance on the matter.

"Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans doubled down today on their vow to block Judge Merrick Garland's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, despite his impeccable credentials," Duckworth said. "What that means is Mark Kirk is more inclined to have [GOP presidential frontrunner] Donald Trump select our next Supreme Court justice, since Kirk said only last Friday [on March 11] he 'certainly would' support Trump for president if he is the Republican nominee. Like most Illinoisans, I find that possibility frightening."

Prior to Obama nominating Garland, Kirk broke ranks from the majority of Senate Republicans when he called for "a fair and thorough hearing" on Obama's SCOTUS nominee.

He issued a statement Wednesday in response to Obama's nomination of Garland for the Supreme Court vacancy.

"When I climbed the 42 steps of the U.S. Capitol and returned to the Senate following my stroke, I reaffirmed my commitment to represent the people of Illinois in an independent and thoughtful manner, free from the partisanship and political rancor that too often consumes Washington," Kirk said. "The Senate's constitutionally defined role to provide advice and consent is as important as the president's role in proposing a nominee, and I will assess Judge Merrick Garland based on his record and qualifications."

On Friday, Kirk urged his fellow GOP Senators to consider Garland's nomination.

"We should go through the process the Constitution has already laid out. The president has already laid out a nominee who is from Chicagoland and for me, I'm open to see him, to talk to him, and ask him his views on the Constitution," Kirk said during an interview on WLS-AM's "The Big John Howell Show."

Kirk went on to say that Republicans -- many of whom have previously lauded Merrick, even going as far as to say he would be a good pick for the high court -- should "just man up and cast a vote."

"The tough thing about these senatorial jobs is you get yes or no votes. Your whole job is to either say yes or no and explain why," the senator added.

Kirk was also asked about the possibility of the Senate holding hearings on Garland's nomination.

"I think that given Mitch's view, I don't see his view changing too much," Kirk replied. "You know, eventually, we'll have an election and we will have a new president. The new president will obviously come forward with a nomination."

Urbana resident Robert Naiman, policy director at Just Foreign Policy, started the MoveOn petition around which Monday's Chicago protest was organized.

Naiman welcomed Kirk's comments in support of having an up or down Senate vote on Garland's nomination, but he said the senator isn't "off the hook" just yet.

"For us in Illinois, we don't get to vote for Mitch McConnell, for or against," he explained. "Our only opportunity to hold Mitch McConnell accountable is to hold Mark Kirk accountable ... We need him to speak up and agitate and press for a vote, and Kirk's not off the hook until there's a vote."

Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans United for Change, issued a statement over the weekend echoing a similar sentiment.

"Senator Mark Kirk's statement calling for an up or down vote on Merrick Garland, President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court, is just one more indication that the GOP leadership's vow of obstruction is indefensible," Woodhouse said. "But statements by themselves aren't enough. Now he has to return to Washington and take responsibility for getting the GOP leadership to actually fulfill its constitutional responsibility to give the president's nominee a hearing and up or down vote."

Democratic Party of Illinois spokesman Sean Savett also weighed in on Kirk's comments, saying "if Senator Kirk were serious about fulfilling his constitutional responsibilities, he would publicly rebuke the strategy of the Republican Majority Leader he voted for, not predict the strategy's success."

Representatives from the Sierra Club's Illinois chapter were among those at today's rally outside Kirk's downtown Chicago office.

"The Sierra Club is working to protect the environment so it can be enjoyed and explored by all Americans, and so in order for us to do that, (that) means we need a really strong, functioning democracy," said Kady McFadden with the Illinois Sierra Club. "Now that the Senators are home, and that Mark Kirk is here, we're asking him to urge Senate GOP leaders to do their job and to appoint someone to the Supreme Court."

A request seeking comment in response to Monday's protest and MoveOn petition delivery was left with Kirk's office.

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