PI Original Adam Doster Tuesday July 21st, 2009, 5:24pm

Is Kirk Backpedaling On Cap-And-Trade?

Rep. Mark Kirk constantly paints himself as someone above the political fray. In a congressional district he describes as "fiercely independent," the North Shore Republican has campaigned as a moderate unwilling to compromise on his core principles. In launching his Senate ...

Rep. Mark Kirk constantly paints himself as someone above the political fray. In a congressional district he describes as "fiercely independent," the North Shore Republican has campaigned as a moderate unwilling to compromise on his core principles. In launching his Senate bid yesterday, Kirk attempted to erect the same image when asked to respond to a protest staged by progressive health care reform activists:

"Those are the left wing guys I think. We'll have the right next," Kirk joked shortly after the chanters began.

But it's clear that Kirk may be bending to the pressure from his right. After making the controversial vote in favor of President Obama's cap-and-trade proposal earlier this session, he received what he describes as "a stronger reaction than I've ever seen before" from opponents of the climate change legislation. And on WIND's Big John & Cisco In The Morning yesterday, he hinted that he would consider switching his stance on the bill if it comes back to the House for a conference committee vote. Listen (full audio here):

Internal mp3

KIRK: If this comes back -- and I don’t think it will, I think this bill has died in the Senate -- I will be going through every detail and thinking about all of my constituents who got a hold of me on this issue. Because there has been an issue that I’ve heard nothing else about in the last couple of weeks.

Kirk was obviously rattled by the blowback from the conservative base.  Now he is attempting to compensate by tacking right, despite his environmental record and regardless of the fact that efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars and factories are still broadly popular with the American public. In a state that leans left, this might be a poor choice in the long run.

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