Durbin, 68, is one of the few confidants of President Barack Obama in Congress and one of the most liberal lawmakers, a staunch supporter of progressive and labor causes.
Yet, unlike many other politicians, he cultivates ties on the other side of the aisle; politics, he believes, is about relationships. He persuaded the conservative Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio to join the group that was trying to craft an overhaul of immigration policies. They unveiled their proposal last week; prospects for eventual Senate passage are good.
And, to the dismay of some on the political left, he joined the bipartisan majority on the Bowles-Simpson deficit panel in supporting a long-range deficit-reduction plan that included cuts in entitlements and tax increases.
Kirk's recovery has been slow but steady. He walks with a cane and is regaining other abilities. He missed all of last year's congressional session. He's back full time now, and fully engaged. During a recent all-night Senate "vote-a-rama," there were 42 roll calls until 5 a.m.; he made them all.
During rehabilitation, he set a goal: When the Senate convened this year, he was going to walk up the steps to the Capitol. He told Durbin he would be "thrilled" if he would join him.
On Jan. 3, Kirk, accompanied by the vice president, Manchin and Durbin, walked up those 45 steps.