Rep. Mark Kirk Blames His Vote For Cap-And-Trade On His Own "Ignorance"

October 29, 2010 3:51 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Mark Kirk

In one of the most heated Senate races in the country, Illinois Republican Mark Kirk is attempting to play up his centrist reputation without losing the support of conservatives who have long been skeptical of him.  At a town hall meeting yesterday, Kirk was questioned about his position on cap-and-trade legislation, which he voted for in the House, but has pledged to oppose if he's elected to the Senate.  Kirk defended his reversal, explaining that he supported the bill out of "ignorance" and "lack of understanding" of the economy: 

"We make a lot of errors in Congress, not out of malice or corruption. It's out of ignorance and lack of understanding of how a $14 trillion economy operates," Kirk said. "As I traveled Illinois, I quickly saw the kind of damage that legislation would cause industries that were not heavily present in my congressional district: heavy manufacturing, agriculture, mining."

There usually aren't many convincing excuses for such a rapid flip-flop, but Democrats will likely be more than satisfied with Kirk's answer: he voted for the bill without understanding what it would do or how it would affect the economy. And it wasn't a routine vote, either, as he was one of just eight Republicans who broke with the GOP to support it.   

Meanwhile, Kirk's explanation was noticeably different than the one he gave when he first disavowed the bill last year. "I voted for it because it was in the narrow interests of my congressional district," he said. "But as your representative, representing the entire state of Illinois, I will vote 'no' on that bill."

In other words, Kirk's original argument suggested that he was knowingly hurting most of Illinois. Now, he says he was simply confused. Which one is it?