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Mark Kirk's Issue Positions (Political Courage Test)


Official Position: Candidate addressed this issue directly by taking the Political Courage Test.

Inferred Position: Candidate refused to address this issue, but Vote Smart inferred this issue based on the candidate's public record, including statements, voting record, and special interest group endorsements.

Unknown Position: Candidate refused to address this issue, or we could not infer an answer for this candidate despite exhaustive research of their public record.

Additional Information: Click on this icon to reveal more information about this candidate's position, from their answers or Vote Smart's research.

Other or Expanded Principles & Legislative Priorities are entered exactly as candidates submit them. Vote Smart does not edit for misspelled words, punctuation or grammar.

Mark Kirk has refused to provide voters with positions on key issues covered by the 2016 Political Courage Test, despite repeated requests from Vote Smart and voters like you.

What is the Political Courage Test?

Issue Positions

For Presidential and Congressional candidates who refuse to provide voters with their positions, Vote Smart has researched their public records to determine their likely responses. These issue positions are from 2016.

  • Rated 80% by NARAL Pro-choice America (
  • Voted in favor of H.Amdt 509 "Prohibiting Federally Funded Abortion Services" (
  • Washington Examiner "Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill, was one of only two Republicans to break with his party on a bill Tuesday afternoon to ban abortions after 20 weeks, a move analysts said could help prove he is a moderate voice for the state when voters head to the polls in 2016." (
  • "I am also a cosponsor of the Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, which will legally ensure that the Government keeps its spending under control. A Constitutional Amendment limiting spending will be an essential part of fixing how Washington works." (
  • "Require a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Limit the ability to raise taxes to pay for runaway spending." (
  • Despite exhaustive research, Vote Smart was unable to find information about this candidate's position.
  • "We need to change course from spending money that we do not have. Americans have sent a clear message in the past several elections to cut spending. I am a part of many legislative efforts to cut spending and to fix the broken budgeting process in Washington, D.C." (
  • "Congressman Kirk will continue to support meaningful federal investments in infrastructure, defense, education, and job creation." (
  • "With spending cuts and discipline we can master this danger, as our grandparents did. The need to do the hard things - like entitlement reform - is similar to the dramatic moves our grandparents made to secure our future." (
  • "End tax expenditures (preserving the mortgage interest and charity deductions) in return for dropping the top rates from 39% to 29% as recommended by the President's bipartisan deficit commission." (
  • "Reduce the corporate tax rate to 25%, creating 5.3 million private-sector jobs over 10 years." (
  • "Enhancing Local Control Congressman Kirk formed an Education Advisory Board led by local education leaders to get expert advice on our community's needs. With recommendations from this Board, the Congressman introduced legislation to reform aspect of the No Child Left Behind law to better serve our kids and local schools." (
  • "We should reform No Child Left Behind by ensuring parents' right to know how schools are performing while using more common sense measurements. Most importantly, we should expand parents' access to higher quality, innovative Charter schools where their children have greater opportunities to go to college and succeed in the global economy." (
  • Voted in favor of S.1 "A Bill to Approve the Keystone XL Pipeline" (
  • Signed a letter stating "Mr. President, six years is too long. We urge you to approve the Keystone XL pipeline immediately." (
  • "I support the Keystone pipeline […]" (
  • "Support expansion of new oil, coal, natural gas, biomass, hydro, solar, wind, and nuclear American power solutions with advanced technologies and strong research capabilities for more jobs. This is a time to support American energy developers expanding our independence from foreign oil, not singling them out with tax hikes." (
  • "To enhance America's energy independence and help lower gas prices, Congressman Kirk introduced the Apollo Energy Independence Act. This comprehensive legislation establishes tax and market incentives to increase the deployment of renewable and alternative energy, vehicles and fuel." (
  • Signed a letter stating "We write to express our concerns with your proposed rule for existing power plants emissions of greenhouse gases. […] In your haste to drive coal and eventually natural gas from the generation portfolio, your Administration has disregarded whether EPA even has the legal authority under the Clean Air Act to move forward with this proposal […]" (
  • Rated 0% by Environment America (
  • "Recently, Congressman Kirk met with Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) to form a group of bipartisan House and Senate Members to introduce a version of Senator Carper's bill that would cut air pollution using an innovative cap-and-trade system." (
  • "I am fighting to extend the assault weapons ban, close gun show loopholes, require trigger locks, enforce the Brady Bill and protect our children from drugs and gangs." (
  • Rated 100% by Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence (
  • Cosponsored and voted for S.Amdt 4720 "Authorizes Attorney General to Deny Transfer of Firearms to Suspected Terrorists" (
  • "I stand with the majority of Americans in opposing ObamaCare, which is why I have voted against it 36 times. I support the House-passed measure that defunds ObamaCare without increasing federal spending by a dime while preventing a government shutdown." (
  • "I join the majority of Americans in opposing Obamacare, and I have voted against it more than 40 times. This law has made healthcare more expensive and less accessible for Illinois families." (
  • "I support a two-step immigration reform that first secures our southern border and then creates a tough but fair path to citizenship for immigrants living illegally in the United States." (
  • Voted in favor of S.744 "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act" (
  • "Same-sex couples should have the right to civil marriage." (
  • "As Americans, we believe in human rights, civil rights and dignity. Today's ruling recognizes that our gay friends, family members, and neighbors are deserving of the same right to commit to the one they love." (
  • "I realized that life gets down to who loves you, who you love, and the government has nothing to do with that decision." (
  • "Our country needs a clear strategy to destroy the Islamic state, not doubling down on failed strategies." (
  • Do you support a Syrian no-fly zone or the U.S. enforcement of Syrian humanitarian safe zones? Why or why not? "If we have an Administration willing to enforce red lines and protect a humanitarian safe zone, then yes." (
This candidate has responded to a Political Courage Test in a previous election. As a continued effort to provide the American public with factual information on candidates running for public office, these archived responses are made available here.
The Political Courage Test asks candidates which items they will support if elected. It does not ask them to indicate which items they will oppose. Through extensive research of public polling data, we discovered that voters are more concerned with what candidates would support when elected to office, not what they oppose. If a candidate does not select a response to any part or all of any question, it does not necessarily indicate that the candidate is opposed to that particular item.

Indicate which principles you support (if any) concerning abortion.

a) Abortions should always be illegal.
b) Abortions should be illegal when the fetus is viable, with or without life support.
X c) Abortions should always be legally available.
d) Abortions should be legal only within the first trimester of pregnancy.
e) Abortions should be legal when the pregnancy resulted from incest or rape.
f) Abortions should be legal when the life of the woman is endangered.
g) Abortions should be limited by waiting periods and notification requirements as decided by each state government.
h) Prohibit the dilation and extraction procedure, also known as "partial birth" abortion.
i) Prohibit public funding of abortions and public funding of organizations that advocate or perform abortions.
X j) Support "buffer-zones" by requiring demonstrators to stay at least five feet from abortion clinic doorways and driveways.
X k) Provide funding for family planning programs as a means to decrease the number of abortions.
l) Other

Budgetary PrioritiesIndicate what levels of federal funding you support for the following general categories.

Maintain Funding Status a) Agricultural
Maintain Funding Status b) Arts
Slightly Increase Funding c) Defense
Slightly Increase Funding d) Education
Maintain Funding Status e) Environmental
Slightly Increase Funding f) International aid
Maintain Funding Status g) Law enforcement
Slightly Increase Funding h) Medical Research
Maintain Funding Status i) National Aeronautical Space Administration (NASA)
Maintain Funding Status j) National Parks
Slightly Increase Funding k) Scientific Research
Maintain Funding Status l) Transportation and Highway Infrastructure
Maintain Funding Status m) Welfare
n) Other
Yes 2) Would you support enforcing the spending limits agreed to in 1997 by the President and Congress to balance the budget?

Defense SpendingIndicate what levels of federal funding you support for the following categories.

Maintain Funding Status a) Armed Forces personnel training
Maintain Funding Status b) Covert intelligence operations
Slightly Decrease Funding c) Defense plant conversion
Maintain Funding Status d) Military hardware
Slightly Decrease Funding e) Military space shuttle missions
Slightly Increase Funding f) Pay for active duty personnel
Slightly Increase Funding g) National Missile Defense Program
Maintain Funding Status h) Modernization of weaponry and equipment
Slightly Increase Funding i) Programs to improve military retention rates
Slightly Increase Funding j) Research and development of new weapons
Slightly Increase Funding k) Troop and equipment readiness
l) Other

Budget SurplusIndicate your priorities for spending any anticipated federal budget surplus.

Low Priority a) Defense
High Priority b) Education
Highest Priority c) Federal debt reduction
High Priority d) Medicare
High Priority e) Social Security
Medium Priority f) Tax cuts
g) Other

TaxesIndicate what levels you support concerning taxes, deductions, and tax credits in the following categories.Income Taxes - Family IncomeIncome Taxes - Retiree IncomeOther TaxesDeductions/Credits

Greatly Decrease a) Less than $25,000
Slightly Decrease b) $25,000 - $75,000
Slightly Decrease c) $75,000 - $150,000
Slightly Decrease d) Over $150,000
e) Other
Slightly Decrease f) Over $40, 000
g) Other
Maintain Status a) Alcohol taxes
Slightly Decrease b) Capital gains taxes
Maintain Status c) Cigarette taxes
Maintain Status d) Corporate taxes
Maintain Status e) Gasoline taxes
Slightly Decrease f) Inheritance taxes
g) Other
Greatly Increase a) Charitable deductions
Greatly Increase b) Medical expense deductions
Maintain Status c) Mortgage deductions
Greatly Increase d) Child tax credit
Maintain Status e) Earned income tax credit
Greatly Increase f) Student loan tax credit
g) Other


Undecided 2) Do you support replacing the current U.S. income tax structure with a flat income tax?
Yes 3) Should a married couple filing jointly pay the same taxes as if they were an unmarried couple filing separately?
Yes 4) Would you cut taxes if there were an operating surplus?
No 5) Would you cut taxes and use Social Security surpluses to supplement the difference?
6) Other

Indicate which principles you support (if any) regarding campaign finance issues.

a) Support public taxpayer funding for Congressional candidates who comply with campaign spending limits.
X b) Increase the amount individuals are permitted to contribute to federal campaigns.
c) Prohibit Political Action Committee (PAC) contributions to candidates for federal office.
d) Provide free or low-cost television advertising to candidates who agree to voluntary campaign spending limits.
X e) Ban unregulated soft money campaign contributions to political parties or committees.
X f) Prohibit non-U.S. citizens from making soft money contributions to national parties or party committees.
X g) Require full disclosure of funding sources of issue advocacy commercials which appear within 60 days of an election.
h) Make campaign spending limits mandatory for all federal candidates.
X i) Remove all contribution limits on federal candidates and parties, but require complete and immediate disclosure via the Internet.
j) Require Congressional candidates to raise over half of their campaign money from their home state.
k) Other

Indicate which principles you support (if any) to address crime.

a) Broaden the use of the death penalty for federal crimes.
b) Increase spending to build more federal prisons.
X c) Impose "truth in sentencing" for violent criminals so they serve full sentences with no chance of parole.
X d) Support programs to provide prison inmates with vocational and job-related skills and job-placement assistance when released.
X e) Support programs to provide prison inmates with drug and alcohol addiction treatment.
X f) Increase penalties for crimes committed on school grounds.
X g) Increase funding for community policing programs.
X h) Implement penalties other than incarceration for certain non-violent offenders.
X i) Require that crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, and disability be prosecuted as federal hate crimes.
j) Enforcement of civil rights should primarily be the responsibility of the federal government.
k) Prosecute as adults, youths accused of a felony.
X l) Provide block grants to states for implementation of programs to combat juvenile crime.
X m) Impose harsher penalties for youths convicted of violent offenses.
X n) Support the use of "boot camps" as alternative sentencing for juvenile offenders.
X o) Support programs that provide job training and placement services for at-risk youth.
p) Other

Indicate which principles you support (if any) concerning illegal drugs.

X a) Increase penalties for selling illegal drugs.
b) Support mandatory jail sentences for selling illegal drugs.
c) Support capital punishment for convicted international drug traffickers.
X d) Expand federally sponsored drug education and drug treatment programs.
e) Decriminalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
X f) Increase border security to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S.
g) Eliminate federal funding for programs associated with the "war on drugs."
h) Other

Indicate which principles you support (if any) concerning education (K-12).

a) Support national standards and testing of public school students.
b) Allow parents to use vouchers (equal opportunity scholarships) to send their children to any publicly-funded school.
c) Allow parents to use vouchers (equal opportunity scholarships) to send their children to any participating school: public, private or religious.
d) Allow parents to use tax-free savings accounts to send their children to any publicly-funded school.
e) Allow parents to use tax-free savings accounts to send their children to any participating school: public, private or religious.
X f) Support charter schools where teachers and professionals receive authorization and funding to establish new schools.
X g) Promote education flexibility by giving federal funds, in the form of block grants, to the states to spend it as they see fit.
h) Increase funding for block grants to states to help them hire additional teachers.
i) Support teacher testing and reward teachers with merit pay.
j) Increase funding for computers and computer training in public schools.
k) Increase funding for school capital improvements (e.g. buildings and infrastructure).
X l) Eliminate restrictions on federal education funding, giving educators or local school districts more flexibility to design and implement their programs.
m) Support affirmative action in public college admissions.
n) Eliminate federal financial aid for individuals convicted of drug offenses.
o) Increase funding of programs such as Pell grants and Stafford loans to help students pay for college.
X p) Support federal tax incentives to help families save for college.
q) Other

Indicate which principles you support (if any) regarding employment and affirmative action.

X a) Provide tax credits for companies that move job-creating industries into areas with high unemployment.
b) Increase funding for national job-training programs that re-train displaced workers or teach skills needed in today's job market.
X c) Reduce government regulation of the private sector in order to encourage investment and economic expansion.
X d) Establish empowerment zones in areas with large numbers of unemployed people.
e) Eliminate any federal programs designed to reduce unemployment.
f) Increase the federal minimum wage.
X g) Encourage employers to offer flex-time scheduling, comp-time, and unpaid leave for family emergencies.
X h) Provide tax credits for businesses that offer on-site child care.
i) The federal government should consider race and sex in making government contracting decisions.
j) The federal government should continue affirmative action programs.
k) The federal government should discontinue affirmative action programs.
l) The federal government should utilize merit and qualifications in making government contracting decisions.
m) Other

Indicate which principles you support (if any) regarding America's environment and natural resources.

a) Strengthen the regulation and enforcement of the Clean Water Act.
b) Strengthen the regulation and enforcement of the Clean Air Act.
c) Waive environmental review requirements for grazing permits.
X d) Revise the 1872 mining law to increase the fees charged to mining companies using federal lands.
e) Require states to fully compensate citizens when environmental regulations limit uses of privately owned land.
X f) Encourage further development and use of alternative fuels to reduce pollution.
g) Strengthen emission controls on all gasoline or diesel-powered engines, including cars, trucks, and sport utility vehicles.
h) Promote the selling of pollution credits between nations to encourage industries to decrease pollution levels.
X i) Strengthen logging restrictions on federal lands.
j) Reduce current federal regulations on the environment.
X k) Give states added flexibility from the federal government in enforcing and funding federal environment regulations.
l) Other

Indicate which principles you support (if any) concerning gun issues.

a) Ban the sale or transfer of semi-automatic guns, except those used for hunting.
X b) Maintain and strengthen the enforcement of existing federal restrictions on the purchase and possession of guns.
c) Ease federal restrictions on the purchase and possession of guns.
d) Repeal federal restrictions on the purchase and possession of guns.
e) Allow citizens to carry concealed guns.
X f) Require manufacturers to provide child-safety locks on guns.
X g) Increase penalties for the possession of any illegal guns.
X h) Hold gun owners responsible for crimes committed with their guns by children age 16 and under.
X i) Raise the minimum age for ownership of handguns from 18 to 21.
X j) Require background checks of gun buyers at gun shows.
X k) Require a license for gun possession.
l) Other

Indicate which principles you support (if any) regarding health issues.

a) Providing health care is not a responsibility of the federal government.
b) Implement a universal health care program to guarantee coverage to all Americans regardless of income.
X c) Support health care strategies focused on prevention, including health education, and natural medicines and remedies.
X d) Support a Patient's Bill of Rights to define and enforce the rights of insured patients, including greater access to specialists and emergency rooms, wider choice of health care providers, and appeal mechanisms when claims are denied.
e) Support a Patient's Bill of Rights which includes the right to sue when claims are denied.
f) Support a Patient's Bill of Rights which includes the right to appeal to an administrative board of specialists when services are denied.
X g) Provide tax incentives to small businesses that provide health care to their employees.
X h) Expand eligibility for tax-free medical savings accounts, which would be taxed if used for purposes other than medical costs.
X i) Limit the amount of damages that can be awarded in medical malpractice lawsuits.
j) Allow states and local communities to use federal funds for needle-exchange programs to combat the spread of HIV.
k) Provide citizens age 55-65 the option of purchasing Medicare health coverage.
X l) Support legislation to provide prescription drug coverage under Medicare.
X m) Increase funding for AIDS programs.
n) Other

Indicate which principles you support (if any) regarding immigration.

a) Decrease the number of immigrants allowed into the country.
b) Increase the eligibility of legal immigrants for certain social programs (e.g. public housing, food stamps).
c) Require the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to reduce the time between applying for citizenship and taking the oath of allegiance to six months.
d) Provide extra federal aid to states with higher numbers of immigrants for necessary medical and social services.
e) Prohibit states from passing laws that deny human services (medical care, education) to illegal immigrants or their children.
f) Grant U.S. citizenship to children born in the US only if their parents immigrated legally.
X g) Increase the immigration quota for computer scientists and other information technology workers.
h) Establish English as the official national language.
i) Support the separation of the INS into two bureaus: one administering naturalization and one administering border patrol.
j) Increase state autonomy in handling immigration issues.
k) Reimburse states for providing services to illegal aliens.
l) Other

International AidIndicate which principles (if any) you support regarding U.S. International Aid.

X a) Aid should be granted to countries when extraordinary circumstances cause disaster and threaten civilian lives.
X b) Aid should be granted to countries when it is in the security interests of the U. S.
X c) Aid should be granted to countries that are close allies of the U. S. and in need of financial/military assistance.
d) Aid should be eliminated for any nation with documented human rights abuses.
e) Aid programs should be scaled back and eventually eliminated except for extraordinary circumstances.
f) Other

International PolicyIndicate which principles you support (if any) regarding the Middle East.Indicate which principles you support (if any) regarding the United States-United Nations relationship.

a) The U.S. should resolve future disputes with Iraq only through diplomatic means.
X b) The U.S. should take unilateral military action if Iraq does not comply with all accepted United Nations resolutions.
c) The U.S. should take military action against Iraq only as part of an international effort.
d) The U.S. should end the economic embargo against Iraq.
e) The U.S. should not continue to play a prominent leadership role in the peace process between Israel and the Palestine Authority.
X f) The U.S. should continue to play a prominent leadership role in the peace process between Israel and the Palestine Authority.
g) Other
X a) The U.S. should participate in United Nations peacekeeping missions only when vital U.S. interests are involved.
b) The U.S. should not commit military troops to United Nations peacekeeping missions.
c) The U.S. should withdraw completely from the United Nations.
X d) The U.S. should pay its debt to the United Nations.
e) Other
No 3) Should the U.S. have full diplomatic relations with Cuba?
Yes 4) Should the U.S. have full diplomatic relations with China?
Yes 5) Should the U.S. recognize and extend full diplomatic relations to Taiwan?
Yes 6) Should the US maintain ground troops in Kosovo?
Yes 7) Do you support the cooperative threat reduction programs with Russia to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to unfriendly nations?
Yes 8) Do you support modifying the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in order to deploy the National Missile Defense System?

International Trade

Yes 1) Do you support the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)?
Yes 2) Do you support the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)?
Yes 3) Do you support continued U.S. membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO)?
Yes 4) Do you support China becoming a member of the World Trade Organization?
No 5) Do you support imposing tariffs on products imported from nations that maintain restrictive trade barriers on American products?
Yes 6) Should a nation's human rights record affect its normal trade relations (most favored nation status) with the United States?
Yes 7) Do you support normal trade relations (most favored nation status) with Vietnam?
Yes 8) Do you support granting the President "fast-track" authority in trade negotiations?
Yes 9) Do you support the trade embargo against Cuba?
Yes Do you believe there has been a decline in moral and ethical standards in America over the last four decades?
Fostering strong families and placing more emphasis on personal responsibility will go a long way toward reversing moral decline in our country. To encourage families we should eliminate the marriage penalty and increase the tax deduction for dependents. Continuing effective welfare programs and curbing frivolous litigation will increase personal responsibility.

Indicate which principles you support (if any) regarding Social Security.

X a) Allow workers to invest a portion of their payroll tax in private accounts which they manage themselves.
b) Allow workers to invest a portion of their payroll tax in private accounts managed by private firms contracted by the government.
c) Invest a portion of Social Security's assets collectively in stocks and bonds instead of U.S. Treasury securities.
d) Increase the payroll tax to better finance Social Security in its current form.
e) Lower Social Security's annual cost-of-living increases.
f) Limit Social Security benefits based on recipients' other income and assets.
g) Require individuals to pay the Social Security tax on incomes above $68,400 (which is currently exempt).
X h) Support a lock box measure, limiting Congress's ability to spend Social Security and Medicare surpluses on any other federal programs except Social Security and Medicare, until each program's long-term solvency is guaranteed.
i) Other

Indicate which principles you support (if any) regarding technology.

X a) Continuing the moratorium on Internet sales taxes.
b) Implement regulation of Internet content by the federal government.
c) Support on-line voter registration.
d) Support voting on-line.
e) Support government mandates to curtail violent and sexual content on television.
X f) Support strict penalties for Internet crimes such as hacking and Internet violence.
X g) Support strong Internet privacy laws.
h) Regulating the Internet should not in any way be controlled by the federal government.
i) Other
No Do you support amending the Constitution to limit the number of terms which members of Congress can serve?

Indicate which principles you support (if any) regarding poverty and the welfare system.

a) Support housing assistance for welfare recipients.
b) Provide homeless families with apartment vouchers they can use to supplement the cost of an apartment.
X c) Continue to give states and local governments responsibility for welfare programs through TANF block grants.
X d) Maintain current welfare-to-work requirements in order for states to qualify for block grants.
e) Restore food stamp programs to legal immigrants.
X f) Transfer homeless housing programs to states through block grants.
X g) Provide continued Medicaid benefits for those welfare recipients who have moved from welfare to work.
h) Require states to return any unused welfare block grant funding to the federal government.
i) Direct federal poverty aid through religious, community-based or other non-profit organizations.
j) Other
Please explain what your top two or three priorities will be if elected. Please explain how you would obtain any additional government funding needed to implement these priorities.

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