CHAMPAIGN — U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk had bipartisan criticism Thursday, hitting the Democratic White House and congressional Republicans for the recent government shutdown and other ongoing budget-related disputes.
Kirk made a number of stops in Champaign Thursday, including the University of Illinois' National Petascale Computer Facility, a noon speech and an afternoon visit to a pediatrics rehabilitation facility.
He said the House Republicans' plan to "defund" the Affordable Care Act was "a stupid idea," and said he also was disappointed with the Obama White House.
"We have to form bipartisan alliances in the Senate to make sure the government doesn't shut down again. I had a message for my fellow Republicans that I thought the Republican mandate in the Senate was not to shut down the government, not to raise taxes," he said.
As for House Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, who have pushed to defund Obamacare, he joked, "I was pretty early on against the defund strategy and most of them are pretty polite with me because I'm senior. I felt the House went in the wrong direction."
He said he believed there would not be another government shutdown early in 2014 when temporary agreements on the debt ceiling and government spending expire.
"I am pretty confident that I think that some of the harder line Republicans have learned a lesson, seeing Republican support go into free-fall during that exercise," he said. "To any of my fellow Republicans who want to repeat this exercise I would say, have you lost your mind? Do you want to make sure there are no Republicans ever in office? If you prepare for government you have to be ready to govern."
He also scored the Obama White House for its part in the government gridlock.
"Right now we have a real problem with a White House that seeks to harm the country to make a point against the opposition party. I don't ever remember a White House making that decision. It's a very disappointing position. I would say not very patriotic," Kirk said.
Illinois' junior senator, who suffered a stroke in January 2012 and was seated in a wheelchair Thursday, said he never talks to Obama, who once held the Senate seat he now occupies.
"I would say because I'm the other party, he's not comfortable talking to me," Kirk said.
He said he would welcome changes to Obama's health care law, including addressing lawsuit reform.
Because southern Illinois has a perceived "judicial hellhole," Kirk said it is difficult to get qualified trauma professionals to work in health care in the region. He noted that researchers have found that treatment within the first hour of trauma is critical.
"If you have to drive farther than the golden hour after a trauma like a car accident, you are really disadvantaged as an Illinois patient," he said.
Kirk, 54, said he feels "good," and is "pushing the travel a lot to get around Illinois for a very good reason.
"When you push yourself, you push yourself, which is what you learn from physical therapy," he said.