- Hatch served 42 years in the Senate, from 1977 to 2019.
- Hatch retired from the Senate in 2019 as the longest-serving Republican senator in history.
- Hatch is survived by his wife and their six children.
Former U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, the oldest Republican in Senate history and the longest-serving senator from Utah, died on Saturday. He was 88 years old.
Hatch served 42 years in the Senate, from 1977 to 2019, including some time as speaker pro tempore of the chamber, a ceremonial leadership position usually reserved for senior members. He was known to work across the aisle, and the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., was one of his closest friends.
“At the time of his retirement, Senator Hatch had the distinction of having passed more laws than any other senator then alive,” a statement from the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation said Saturday. “Through his relentless work ethic, Hatch earned a reputation as one of the most effective and bipartisan legislators of all time.”
Reactions:Democratic and GOP lawmakers pay tribute to late Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah
Of the nearly 800 bills he has sponsored or co-sponsored, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program are among his top bipartisan accomplishments.
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., remembers Hatch for her bipartisanship.
“Senator Hatch has been kind to me and we have worked well together,” she said in a statement on Saturday. “There were a lot of differences including party, size, age…you name it…but somehow we always looked for common ground. Prayers for his family today.”
“So sad to hear of the passing of Orrin Hatch,” former U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, said in a tweet Saturday night. “His ability to walk across the aisle defined his career and his character. He will be missed.”
Bipartisanship – but with the ability to play hardball
Although at his death he was remembered for his bipartisan efforts, he opposed his fair share of Democratic agendas. He voted against the Equal Rights Amendment, used the filibuster to block fair housing bills, and pushed for bills banning abortions.
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.”
One of his greatest legislative accomplishments came late in his career when he worked with the Trump administration to pass a major tax bill in December 2017.
Shortly thereafter, on January 2, 2018, Hatch announced that he would be retiring from the Senate in lieu of seeking re-election. He retired Jan. 3, 2019. Hatch’s retirement paved the way for Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, to run and win.
Prior to his retirement, former President Donald Trump presented Hatch with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Hatch’s love of country and his faith were deeply intertwined. In a C-SPAN interview before leaving the Senate, he said, “I believe this is the most important government in the world, the most important country in the world. I believe this nation was created by our Father heavenly and that we have an obligation to live worthily of it and to continue.”
Hatch was born into a working-class family on March 22, 1934, in Homestead Park, near Pittsburgh. According to his eponymous foundation, Hatch’s mother was a homemaker and his father was a union metal mower.
The future senator earned a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh and encouraged the city’s sports teams.
Retired Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., mentioned Hatch’s Pennsylvania roots, remembering the late senator.
“Senator Hatch was a gentleman, a statesman and a proud son of Pennsylvania,” Toomey said. “My deepest condolences go out to the entire Hatch family and to all who knew and loved him.”
Hatch is survived by his wife, Elaine, to whom he was married for over 60 years, and their six children.
Contributor: Associated Press
Candy Woodall is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Pennsylvania Capital Bureau. She can be reached at 717-480-1783 or on Twitter at @candynotcandace.
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