Orrin Hatch, longtime Republican senator from Utah, dies at 88

  • Former Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah died Saturday at the age of 88.
  • Hatch’s Senate career spanned more than four decades, overseeing a long list of accomplishments.
  • Hatch died in Salt Lake City surrounded by his family, the Hatch Foundation announced.

Longtime Republican Utah Senator Orrin Hatch died Saturday at the age of 88.

The Hatch Foundation announced in a statement that the former senator died at 5:30 p.m. in Salt Lake City while surrounded by his family.

After growing up in poverty in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during the Great


Depression

Hatch rose through the ranks of society to become a lawyer and one of the longest-serving lawmakers in United States history.

A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Hatch graduated from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, before earning his JD from the University of Pittsburgh in 1962. He practiced law in Pittsburgh before moving to Utah in the late 1960s.

Hatch, who in his early years was an amateur boxer, decided to challenge three-term Democratic Senator Frank Moss in the 1976 Utah Senate race. would span 41 years and a vast array of accomplishments as he chaired the powerful finance, justice and labor committees.

He ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, losing to then-Texas Governor George W. Bush.

During the final weeks of Hatch’s Senate career, President Donald Trump presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given to civilians by the Commander-in-Chief.

Hatch retired from the Senate in January 2019.

Hatch’s Senate career spanned decades

Known among the Capitol Hill press corps for his quick wit and off-the-cuff remarks, Hatch first came to the Senate in 1977. His career was long and accomplished, passing more than 800 bills during his tenure. .

Hatch shares rose in Washington under the Reagan administration.

President Ronald Reagan had Hatch on his shortlist for Supreme Court nomination. But according to a 1987 New York Times report, Hatch could not play that role due to limitations on selecting lawmakers for positions for which Congress increased pay while he served in Congress.

During Bill Clinton’s administration, Hatch spearheaded one of his flagship Senate accomplishments, the State’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). In partnership with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, a Democrat from Massachusetts, CHIP has provided health insurance coverage to millions of children across the United States.

In the eight years under President Barack Obama, Hatch was like most Republicans, fighting tooth and nail against Democratic achievements like the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, left, leaves the President's Room with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass, after the Senate refused to end a Republican-led filibuster against

Sense. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) in 1980.

AP Photo/Charles W. Harrity



At one point, Hatch called supporters of the landmark health care law stupid and “dumb people.”

“It was the dumbest, dumbest bill I’ve ever seen,” he said during a speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “Now some of you might have loved it. If so, you’re one of the dumbest, dumbest people I’ve ever met.”

In the final years of his Senate tenure, Hatch played a central role in some of the most high-profile accomplishments of the all-Republican-led government from 2017 to 2018, when he served as acting Senate Speaker. He led the Senate Finance Committee during the passage in 2017 of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, widely considered the key legislative achievement of Trump’s presidency.

Hatch was a member of the Judiciary Committee during the tumultuous confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which saw Republicans and Democrats kill each other, a moment he lamented in his farewell speech as one of the weaknesses of the Senate.

“If I had to identify the origin of our crisis, it would be this: the loss of courtesy and real good understanding between colleagues in the Senate,” he said. “Courtesy is the cartilage of the Senate – the soft connective tissue that cushions impact between opposing joints. But in recent years that cartilage has been ground into a knot. All movement has become bone upon bone.”

“Our ideas are rubbing against each other with increasing frequency — and with nothing to absorb the friction. We are limping along to get any bipartisan legislation through the Senate, let alone the President’s office,” Hatch added in his speech at the top floor just before Christmas in 2018. “The pain is excruciating and it is felt by the whole nation.”

In 2019, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney succeeded Hatch in the seat left vacant by his retirement.

How it has changed over the years

In some areas, Hatch has changed and evolved over the years. In the area of ​​LGBT rights, Hatch was a strong supporter of maintaining marriage between a man and a woman. Early in his career, he took such harsh tones toward gay Americans that he claimed they had a “psychological disability.”

“I would no more like to see homosexuals teaching in school than I would like to see members of the American Nazi Party teaching school,” reported the Salt Lake Tribune in 1977.

Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, Kansas, right, flanked by Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, holds a letter signed by 40 senators calling for negotiations while meeting with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Tuesday, August 23, 1994 to discuss Bill Crime.  Republican senators on Tuesday demanded that Democrats make changes to the $30 billion crime bill, threatening to have the votes to jeopardize the future of the bill.  (AP Photo/John Duricka)

Sense. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and Bob Dole (R-Kan.) in 1994.

AP Photo/John Duricka



Decades later, he changed his tune. In 2018, Hatch gave an impassioned speech in defense of LGBT Americans.

“LGBT youth deserve our unwavering love and support,” he said during Pride Month 2018. “They deserve our validation and assurance that not only is there a place for them in this society , but that it is much better thanks to them.”

“These young people need us – and we desperately need them,” he added. “We need their light to illuminate the richness and diversity of God’s creations. We need the grace, the beauty, the brilliance they bring to the world.”

Hawking during Clinton’s impeachment proceedings in 1999, Hatch took a more lax approach to the wave of criminal lawsuits against Trump associates at the end of his career.

“No, because I don’t think he was involved in any crimes, but even then, you know, you can make anything a crime under current laws,” Hatch told CNN. when asked if he was concerned that so many of Trump’s close allies face legal battles and investigations, some of which the president has been involved in. “If you want to, you can blow things up, you can do a lot of things.”

“Since he became president, this economy has moved forward,” he added. “And I think we should judge it on that basis rather than trying to bring up things from the past that may or may not be true.”

Both in the way he changed and in the way he remained steadfast during his life, Hatch’s legacy will be felt in many areas of society, through the legislation he personally navigated the Senate, his lasting impact on the institution as a whole, and his long career as one of the most prominent Mormon politicians in United States history.

“When we listen to our best angels — when we listen to the voices of virtue inherent in our very nature — we can transcend our tribal instincts and preserve our democracy for future generations,” Hatch said in his final Senate address. “That we can do that is my humble prayer.”

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