U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL,8) slammed U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R) during an economic policy speech Tuesday at the City Club of Chicago.
Duckworth reiterated her call for Kirk to apologize to President Barack Obama for saying the POTUS was acting like the "drug dealer-in-chief" over the Obama administration's $400 million January payment to Iran. Critics of the payment say it was "ransom" for four American prisoners, while the administration says the money was part of a frozen 1979 settlement with the Iranian government that was used as "leverage" for the safe return of the hostages.
"You can disagree with the President without resorting to this kind of inflammatory rhetoric, which is not only offensive, it's totally unhelpful to the cause of a more stable and secure world," Duckworth said.
"Senator Kirk has joined the rogue's gallery of the President's fiercest -- and most unhinged -- critics, and for that he should be ashamed," she added. "What he said is beneath the dignity of the office he now holds, and Senator Kirk should apologize immediately to the President, as well as to the people of Illinois."
But the Kirk camp doubled down on the senator's comments Tuesday.
"The actions of the administration, including the use of unmarked cargo planes, pallets full of clean packs of foreign cash and an agreement with Iran that they only get the cash once the hostages are released, seems more representative of nefarious deals than the conduct of the world's greatest democracy," Kirk campaign manager Kevin Artl said via statement.
"Senator Kirk believes the administration's actions, which Tammy Duckworth has supported, were reckless in the extreme and will ultimately endanger more Americans abroad and is almost certain to fund terrorism," Artl added.
During her speech, Duckworth detailed her refusal to support the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), saying the plan fails to "put in place the tough and enforceable rules needed to crack down on countries that manipulate their currency, which is one of the factors that is roiling the American steel industry."
"It also failed to include stricter rules of origin so that partners can't cheat by slapping a 'Made in Vietnam' label on products that are largely manufactured in another low-wage country, like China -- which defeats the purpose of the labor and environmental standards we negotiated for in these agreements in the first place," she continued.
Duckworth cited trips to Granite City, and similar locals, as motivating factors for fiscal policies she will promote during the campaign cycle, saying they are designed to "jumpstart Illinois's economy and create jobs."
The congresswoman says she supports "fair trade middle ground" policies that include provisions against currency manipulation and "stringent rules of origin" for goods, both of which she believes the TPP lacks. Duckworth went as far as to say the latest trade deal has even fewer content protections for certain industries than what was seen in NAFTA.
Duckworth also called for a "manufacturing Renaissance," while noting that companies have informed her of a shortage in qualified workers. She highlighted legislation she has introduced to help remedy the problem, including the Career and Technical Education Opportunity Act.
The bipartisan bill "would allow students enrolled in career technical programs to use their federal student aid toward earning industry-recognized credentials," Duckworth explained, while the Comunity College to Career Fund Act would team up local institutions of higher learning with corporations to "train workers for openings in their high-tech manufacturing facility" via coursework development and paid internships. The bill is modeled after a Harper College program that has seen success in its partnership with Northrop Grumman and its Rolling Meadows manufacturing facility.
Duckworth also noted other areas of "untapped potential" in Illinois, pointing to renewable energy, agriculture and military procurement as areas that could produce more jobs in the state.
"Our troops should be getting the best equipment, period. If that equipment is made in America, great," Duckworth said during her City Club speech. "If it's made in Illinois, even better. I've been working for the last year with Cheri Bustos to increase production at the Rock Island Arsenal, which employs 6,000 people in the Quad Cities. There are critical defense items being manufactured overseas, which not only might deprive Americans of jobs, but also opens up a number of national security concerns. If it's practical to make those items in America, at places like Rock Island, we should do that, and I was able to shepherd an amendment requiring just that through the NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act]."
The state rep closed out her speech with a call for a "serious investment" in infrastructure.
"Interest rates continue to be at near all-time lows, and the economy, while improving, is not growing as fast as we'd like," Duckworth said. "The threat of what former Treasury Secretary and economist Lawrence Summers calls secular stagnation is a real one. Making major investments in our infrastructure makes sense, now.
"I've seen how effective this can be in my district. I helped secure $300 million in federal funding to begin construction of the long-delayed Elgin-O'Hare Expressway extension, which supports 64,000 jobs. My office also helped secure a TIGER grant to rebuild a 134-year bridge over the Fox River, which will mitigate Metra delays for the 50-plus commuter trains that use it daily. There's a need for projects like this all over Illinois, and they create good jobs. That's why I support the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank, and I support a $478 billion long-term transportation bill that would create 2 million jobs, paid for in part by restricting corporate tax inversions -- that is, multinational corporations avoiding U.S. taxes by setting up their headquarters at a PO Box in a foreign country."
As part of infrastructure improvement, Duckworth called for a national plan to replace lead pipes from the country's water supply, saying "we have a moral obligation to make sure our children's drinking water is clean and safe."
Duckworth also used her speech as an opportunity to call Kirk a "no-show" senator who is "ineffective" and a "fiscal phony."
Kirk's camp responded to the blows by criticizing Duckworth on taxes and her relationship with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
"Throughout her political career, Duckworth has consistently supported more government spending, higher taxes and greater debt," Artl said Tuesday. "Even doubling down on her calls for tax hikes, she supports Speaker Madigan who has called for higher income taxes for every Illinois family. Sen. Mark Kirk supports lower taxes on working families, controlling government spending and reforms that root out waste and fraud so that the programs Americans rely on the most get the funding they need."
In recent polls, Kirk has trailed his Democratic challenger, with the Huffington Post tracker placing the incumbent at 27 percent to Duckworth's 44 percent with four polls in consideration.