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Former Sen. Orrin Hatch dies at 88


Hatch, the former Senate president pro tempore, served in the chamber for 42 years from 1977 to 2019. The release did not include a cause of death.

“A man of wisdom, kindness, character, and compassion, Orrin G. Hatch was everything a United States Senator should be,” said A. Scott Anderson, chairman of the Hatch Foundation. “He exemplified a generation of lawmakers brought up on the principles of comity and compromise, and he embodied those principles better than anyone. In a nation divided, Orrin Hatch helped show us a better way by forging meaningful friendships on both sides of the aisle.”

Hatch announced in January 2018 that he wouldn’t seek re-election, clearing the way for Mitt Romney to return to elected office by running for and winning his seat. Romney was and remains a critic of former President Donald Trump.

Ahead of the Hatch’s retirement announcement, then-President Trump urged him to stay in Washington. During a 2017 event in Utah, Trump called Hatch “a true fighter” and said he hoped the Republican would continue to serve “in the Senate for a very long time to come.”

At the time of Hatch’s retirement announcement, then-White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump was “very sad to see Senator Hatch leave.” Trump had the “greatest and deepest respect” for Hatch, particularly for the role he played in passing tax reform, Sanders said.

Hatch spoke at the time of his retirement about growing partisanship in Congress.

“My heart is heavy because it aches for the times when we actually lived up to our reputation as the world’s greatest deliberative body. It longs for the days in which Democrats and Republicans would meet on middle ground rather than retreat to partisan trenches,” Hatch said in a farewell speech on the Senate floor in December 2018.

Political legacy

Hatch served through the administrations of seven US Presidents and worked with nine Senate Majority Leaders. During his time in office, he served as chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

His tenure on the Judiciary Committee included the confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991. During Thomas’ controversial Senate confirmation hearings, Hatch suggested that Anita Hill, who had testified that Thomas sexually harassed her when he was her boss, had concocted some of her claims. (President Joe Biden was chair of the Judiciary Committee at the time.)

The late former lawmaker was the chairman emeritus of the Hatch Foundation, which focuses on civic engagement and political discourse and is home to his legislative records. The Utah Republican authored and co-authored several pieces of historic legislation such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Americans with Disabilities Act, the release said.

“Senator Orrin G. Hatch personified the American Dream,” Matt Sandgren, executive director of the Hatch Foundation, said in the release.

“Born the son of a carpenter and plaster lather, he overcame the poverty of his youth to become a United States Senator. With the hardships of his upbringing always fresh in his mind, he made it his life’s mission to expand freedom and opportunity for others—and the results speak for themselves. From tax and trade to religious liberty and healthcare, few legislators have had a greater impact on American life than Orrin Hatch,” Sandgren said.

Elected officials and fellow Republicans responded to the news of Hatch’s death Saturday.

Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee called Hatch “a giant of the Senate and a pillar” in their state.

“Orrin was a friend, a mentor, and an example to me and countless others. I saw countless times how his brilliant mind, quick wit, and care for his nation, his state, and his colleagues turned pernicious problems into clear paths forward,” Lee said on Twitter. “His example of dedicated, principled statesmanship and consistent collegiality is missed but will never be forgotten.”

“This breaks my heart,” Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, said in a tweet. “Abby and I are so grateful for the opportunities we had to spend time with this incredible public servant. He was always so kind and generous with his time and wisdom. Utah mourns with the Hatch family.”

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called Hatch a “cherished friend.”

“Devastated to learn of the loss of Sen. Orrin Hatch,” McDaniel said. “I met my husband while he worked for the Senator. We will miss him dearly. He was a statesman that represented the best our country has to offer. Please pray for his family.”

Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives Brad Wilson, a Republican, said of Hatch: “There are few examples of greater devotion to public service than that of Sen. Orrin G. Hatch. While deeply saddened by his passing, his legacy will live in the impact he had on the lives of Utahns and the friendship he showed to those around him.”

Hatch is survived by his wife, Elaine, and their six children.

This story has been updated with additional information.




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