WASHINGTON, DC, USA – Orrin Hatch, the gentlemanly long-serving Republican US senator from Utah who championed deep tax cuts, an anti-terrorism law, and a children’s health program while fighting for conservative judicial nominees, died on Saturday, April 23, at the age 88.
His death was announced by the nonprofit Orrin G. Hatch Foundation, which stated that he died in Salt Lake City surrounded by family.
Hatch served in the Senate from 1977 to 2019, serving under eight presidents, beginning in the final days of Gerald Ford’s term and ending with Donald Trump’s first two years in office. He was the longest-serving Republican senator in history.
In 2018, Trump awarded the Medal of Freedom to him, the highest civilian bestowed by the United States.
Hatch was a firm advocate of conservative Supreme Court nominees such as Robert Bork, who was nominated by Reagan in 1987 but was rejected by the Senate, as well as Clarence Thomas, who was nominated by Republican George W. Bush in 1991 and narrowly confirmed by the Senate, and Brett Kavanaugh, who was nominated by Republican Trump and narrowly confirmed by the Senate in 2018.
Hatch, a lay minister in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a champion of religious liberty, and an opponent of abortion rights represented the state that is home to the Mormon Church and was one of the foremost Mormons in public life in American history.
As Utah’s longest-serving senator, he was elected to seven six-year terms. His first election victory was helped by Ronald Reagan’s backing, who would later become President of the United States. Hatch ran for his party’s presidential candidacy in 2000 but dropped out before the election.
He was known for a courteous demeanor and liked writing poetry and songs, but showed flashes of temper. He held powerful posts including chairman of the influential Senate Judiciary and Finance Committees.
Hatch was a key architect of the Patriot Act, which was passed in the aftermath of al Qaeda’s terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. The measure strengthened the government’s ability to track down prospective terrorists by granting it new surveillance powers, among other things.
Critics of the law considered it a violation of individual liberties. It is constitutional, lawful, and effective, according to Hatch.
Despite Democratic resistance, Hatch was a key factor behind a Republican package of deep tax cuts aimed mostly at companies and the rich, which Trump requested and approved in 2017. The tax cuts were expected to increase the federal debt significantly.
The well-being of children
Hatch was a strong conservative who occasionally disagreed with his colleagues. He was willing to work with Democrats to accomplish certain bipartisan bills, and he did so frequently with his friend and liberalism champion Edward Kennedy, who died in 2009.
In 1997, the two senators teamed up to develop the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, through which the federal government assists states in providing healthcare coverage to low-income children. Millions of youngsters have benefited from the program, whose families earn too much to qualify for the broader Medicaid healthcare program for the poor yet cannot afford private health insurance.
He campaigned for the nutritional supplement industry, which has a strong presence in Utah. He authored legislation to allow firms to make health claims about their products while avoiding regulatory safety and effectiveness reviews. Hatch was a crucial figure in Trump’s decision in 2017 to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase national monuments in Utah, which included millions of acres and were widely criticized by conservationists. When Reagan, a veteran of the conservative movement, endorsed him ahead of the Republican primary, he rose from obscurity.
In the general election, Hatch defeated three-term Democratic Senator Frank Moss. That race foreshadowed the conservative ascension across the country in 1980, as well as the Democratic Party’s downfall in numerous Western states.
He called Democrats “the party of homosexuals” early in his career, and told the New York Times in 1990, “That was a dumb thing for me to say.” Because I said it, I deserve to be found guilty.”
He was a former boxer who put down his gloves to fight for conservative judicial nominees.
Hatch defended Trump’s nominee Kavanaugh after he was accused by a woman of sexually assaulting her years earlier, telling anti-Kavanaugh female protesters he would talk to them when they “grow up.”
Hatch was born on March 22, 1934, in Pennsylvania and grew up in a poor family in Pittsburgh during the Great Depression. He practiced law after college and was a complete unknown when he decided to run for the Senate in Utah in 1976.
“I’m not sure I should stand here on the floor of the United States Senate and pass judgment on anybody,” Hatch told Helms.
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” he added.
He is survived by his wife Elaine and their six children.