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Former Utah Senator Orrin Hatch dies at 88

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(NewsNation) — Former U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, who served in the U.S. Senate for 42 years, has died at 88 in Salt Lake City, the Hatch Foundation announced on Twitter Saturday. The foundation did not specify the cause of Hatch’s death.

“Senator Orrin G. Hatch personified the American dream,” said Matt Sandgren, executive director of the Hatch Foundation in a press release. “Born the son of a carpenter and a plasterer, he overcame the poverty of his youth to become a United States Senator. With the difficulties of his upbringing still fresh in his mind, he made it his mission to expand the freedom and opportunities of others, and the results speak for themselves.

Hatch was the longest-serving senator in Utah history, spanning the terms of seven U.S. presidents from 1977 to 2019. He was also the former president pro tempore of the United States Senate, a position that gave him placed third in the presidential succession behind then-Vice President Joe Biden and the Speaker of the House. When he retired, he was succeeded by 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

A conservative on most economic and social issues, he nevertheless teamed with Democrats several times during his long career on issues ranging from stem cell research to disability rights to the expansion of children’s health insurance. He also struck up friendships across the aisle, particularly with the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

One issue Hatch returned to during his career was whether to limit or ban abortion, a stance that placed him at the center of one of the nation’s most contentious issues for decades. He was the author of a variety of “Hatch Amendments” to the Constitution aimed at reducing the availability of abortions.

  • Former Utah Senator Orrin Hatch dies at 88
  • Former Utah Senator Orrin Hatch dies at 88
  • Former Utah Senator Orrin Hatch dies at 88

In 1991, he became known as one of Clarence Thomas’s most vocal defenders against Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations. Hatch read aloud at confirmation hearings for “The Exorcist,” and he suggested that Hill stole details from the book.

Although unquestionably conservative, Hatch has at times differed from many of his fellow conservatives, including President George W. Bush, when Hatch lobbied for federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

Late in his career, he also helped push through a federal tax overhaul and pushed President Donald Trump to downsize two national monuments in Utah as he called for a return to an era of political civility. He became an ally of Trump.

In 1997, Hatch joined Kennedy in sponsoring a $24 billion program for states to provide health insurance to children of low-income parents who do not qualify for Medicaid.

Hatch helped pass legislation strengthening child pornography laws and making illegal downloading of music a prosecutable crime.

For Hatch, the issue of illegally downloaded music was a personal issue. A Mormon, he frequently wrote religious songs and recorded music in his spare time in order to unwind from the stresses of life in Washington. Hatch earned around $39,000 in royalties from his songs in 2005.

One of his songs, “Unspoken”, went platinum after appearing on “WOW Hits 2005”, a compilation of Christian pop music.

In 2000, Hatch sought the Republican nomination for president, saying he had more experience in Washington than his opponents and could work with Democrats. Hatch easily recognized that winning would be a long shot. He withdrew from the race after winning just 1% of the vote in the Iowa caucuses, then endorsed George W. Bush.

He became a staunch opponent of President Barack Obama’s 2009 Health Care Act after he backed out of early bipartisan talks on the legislation. At one point he said of the bill, “It is 2,074 pages. It’s enough to make you vomit.

Hatch faced a tough re-election battle from a conservative candidate in 2012, two years after a wave of tea parties ousted longtime Republican Utah senator Bob Bennett . Bennett and Hatch both voted in favor of a bank bailout in 2008 that displeased those on the far right.

Hatch contributed about $10 million to his 2012 run and worked to build support from Tea Party conservatives.

Hatch used to play tough – he learned to box as a boy in Pittsburgh to fend off attacks from older, taller students. Not afraid to fight, he said he always made it a point to become friends quickly with those he had a fight with.

When Hatch announced he wouldn’t be running again in 2018, he said “every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves.”

After moving to Utah in the early 1970s, Hatch – a former bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – ran for his first public office in 1976 and narrowly upset the senator Democrat Frank Moss.

In 1982, he held off challenger Ted Wilson, the Democratic mayor of Salt Lake City, to win a second term by a solid margin.

It was never seriously challenged again.

Orrin Grant Hatch was born in 1934 in Pittsburgh. He married Elaine Hanson in 1957 and graduated from Brigham Young University in 1959. He received a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1962 and was a partner in the law firm of Thomson, Rhodes and Grigsby in that city ​​until 1969.

Later, he was a partner in Hatch & Plumb of Salt Lake City.

He is survived by his wife, Elaine, and their six children: Brent, Marcia, Scott, Kimberly, Alysa and Jess.

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