Orrin Hatch of Utah ended his tenure Thursday as the longest-serving Republican senator in history. He is known as one of the most prominent conservatives in the United States. He was first elected to the Senate in 1976.
Hatch’s departure after a career that spanned more than four decades opens the door for a similar but also different political voice. Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was sworn in to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Hatch. In recent years, Senator Hatch expressed consistent support for President Trump’s agendas and policies. But Mr. Romney has expressed criticism of the President.
While known as a staunch conservative, Mr. Hatch was also one who would “cross the aisle” at times. He teamed with Democrats to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act and a Children’s Health Insurance Program for low-income kids. But he championed typically Republican issues such as valuing human life and building a conservative U.S. Supreme Court. Hatch served for decades on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He participated in the confirmation hearings of every current Supreme Court justice. On a more personal note in the latter part of his long service, Hatch called for a return to political civility despite differing viewpoints. He feels politicians have become too hostile toward one another.
Hatch didn’t back down from debate. But he also formed friendships with his political opponents. One of those was the late Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy. Kennedy was a liberal Democrat and the younger brother of former President John F. Kennedy. When Senator Kennedy passed away from cancer in 2009, Hatch recalled the friendship they had built despite their conflicting convictions. Hatch said they “were like fighting brothers.”
Like his successor Romney, Hatch is a Mormon. He says that legislation protecting religious freedom is his greatest accomplishment.
(Utah Senator Orrin Hatch waves in this 2018 photo. Hatch ended his tenure as the longest-serving Republican senator in history on Thursday. AP Photo)