Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Ky. gives a thumbs-up at left, as Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., second from right, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, right, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., walks up the steps to the Senate door of the Capitol building, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Kirk said he often visualized climbing the 45 steps of the U.S. Capitol as a source of inspiration during his months of grueling physical therapy after suffering a major stroke last year. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Evan Vucci

WASHINGTON — Nearly a year after a debilitating stroke, Sen. Mark Kirk is back at work in the Senate.

The Illinois Republican climbed the steps of the Capitol on Thursday and claimed his Senate seat.

Kirk was greeted at the foot of the Capitol steps by Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday. Biden and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia were at Kirk’s side as Kirk used a four-pronged cane to climb the 45 steps.

Kirk tweeted today: Will never forget seeing my capitol hill family from the cap steps today. So grateful.

He earned rousing applause from fellow senators, the Illinois congressional delegation and others.

Kirk waved and smiled. He paused several times to greet well-wishers.

During his recovery from the stroke, the senator endured an intensive, experimental rehabilitation regimen that is often compared with military boot camp because of its intensity.

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