State Journal-Register

January 4, 2001

Page: 11

New Illinois representatives sworn in

By DORI MEINERT
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - Illinois' two newest House members, Mark Kirk of Wilmette and Tim Johnson of Sidney, were sworn in Wednesday as members of the 107th Congress.

The newly elected Republicans cast their first votes to help re-elect House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Yorkville to his second two-year term in that leadership post.

"This is a 'pinch-yourself' moment," said Kirk just before rushing to the House floor.

As he was sworn in, he clutched a Bible that his fiancee, Kimberly Vertolli, received while at the Naval Academy. His 7-year-old niece, Frances Kirk Starn, accompanied him on the House floor.

His mother and fiancee watched from the gallery above.

Johnson was joined on the House floor by 9-year-old Robert Morris, son of a campaign worker who traveled by bus to be here for the occasion.

In all, about 200 supporters from Illinois came to celebrate with Johnson, a former state representative.

"This is a very humbling and gratifying experience," said Johnson.

Both men praised Hastert's call for House members to set aside the bitterness from last year's presidential election. 

"My friends, we need to get over it," Hastert said in a speech to the House members before they took the oath of office. "We need to work together to revitalize this democracy. We need to get to the people's business. I have great faith that we can do so."

To emphasize bipartisanship within his state, Hastert once again invited 
Illinois Gov. George Ryan, a Republican, and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, a Democrat, to the opening day of the new Congress. His guests also included Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood and Illinois House Minority Leader Lee Daniels, R-Elmhurst.

Most of the media attention Wednesday was focused on the Senate, where Hillary Clinton made history as the first presidential spouse to join that body.

But Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., enjoyed a fleeting moment of fame as he presided briefly over the evenly split Senate, a privilege only extended to those in the majority party.

Democrats control the Senate until Jan. 20, when President-elect Bush is sworn in. Vice President Al Gore will cast any tie-breaking votes for the Democrats. After Jan. 20, then-Vice President Dick Cheney will give the edge to Republicans. Little legislative work is expected to be done before Inauguration Day.