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Kirk Victory Could Shift Senate’s Balance of Power in Lame Duck

Republican Rep. Mark Kirk, who won the Senate seat previously held by President Barack Obama in Illinois, will be one of three new Members sworn in to the chamber during the lame-duck session.

While Democrats Chris Coons of Delaware and Gov. Joe Manchin of West Virginia were also elected to fill seats beginning in the lame duck, they are replacing Democratic appointees. Kirk’s victory was an important GOP pickup and would shift the Senate’s party balance in the upcoming work session, which is scheduled to begin the week of Nov. 15, if he is sworn in in time.

Kirk won a full term beginning next year, as well as a special election to replace Sen. Roland Burris (D), the appointee who has served for the past 22 months.

The five-term House Member narrowly beat Illinois state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias after a brutal campaign. Giannoulias conceded the race shortly after it was called late Tuesday night.

Kirk reminded voters throughout the campaign that Illinois’ Senate election included an opportunity to affect the legislative agenda for the lame duck, and he has pledged to limit annual spending bills and any last-ditch measures the Democratic majority might aim to bring up before its ranks narrow in January. Democrats hope to use the work session to pass a continuing spending resolution and consider an extension of tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush.

Before Kirk can be seated, however, the Illinois State Board of Elections must certify the election results. Secretary of State Jesse White and Gov. Pat Quinn (D), who was waiting Wednesday for his own re-election race to be called, will have to sign off on Kirk’s paperwork, which is expected to be ready by Nov. 24 at the earliest, giving Burris a few more days as the state’s junior Senator.

“As the end of my term approaches, I plan to work closely with my successor on a smooth transition between my office and the next to ensure the needs of the people of Illinois are met, that their voice is heard, and that they are fully represented in Washington,” Burris said in a statement.

An Illinois Republican with knowledge of the Kirk campaign expressed hope that the results could be certified earlier so that Kirk could be sworn in for the start of the lame duck. “Whoever was elected was elected to serve now,” the GOPer said.

Coons handily beat Republican Christine O’Donnell in Tuesday’s special election to replace Sen. Ted Kaufman (D). Kaufman was appointed last year to temporarily fill the seat vacated by Joseph Biden, who stepped down to become vice president. His term expires concurrently with the special election, and Coons is likely to be sworn in the first week of the lame-duck session.

Manchin defeated GOP challenger John Raese in the race to complete the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D) term, which expires in 2012. Appointed Sen. Carte Goodwin (D) has filled the role since July but will step down this month.

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