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Longtime Utah senator Orrin Hatch dies at 88

His death was announced in a statement from his foundation, which did not specify a cause.

SALT LAKE CITY — Orrin G. Hatch, who became the longest serving Republican senator in history representing Utah for more than four decades, died Saturday at age 88.

His death was announced in a statement from his foundation, which did not specify a cause. He started the Hatch Foundation when he retired in 2019 and was succeeded by Republican 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.

“He exemplified a generation of lawmakers high on the principles of comity and compromise, and he embodied those principles better than anyone,” Hatch Foundation President A. Scott Anderson said in a statement. “In a divided nation, Orrin Hatch helped show us a better way by forging meaningful friendships on both sides of the aisle. Now, more than ever, we would do well to follow his example.

Hatch has also championed GOP issues such as abortion limits and helped shape the U.S. Supreme Court, including defending Justice Clarence Thomas against sexual harassment allegations during confirmation hearings.

Late in his career, Hatch became an ally of Republican President Donald Trump, using his role as chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee to push a major rewrite of US tax codes onto the president’s desk. In return, Trump helped Hatch solve a key problem for Utah Republicans by agreeing to drastically reduce the size of two national monuments that had been declared by former presidents.

Thanks to Trump, Hatch encouraged Hatch to run again, the longtime senator, who should have faced a tough primary battle and had promised not to run again. Hatch instead stepped aside and encouraged Romney to run to replace him.

Hatch was also known for his parallel career as a singer and music recording artist with themes from his religious faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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

Hatch came to the Senate after an election victory in 1976 and became the longest-serving senator in Utah history, winning a seventh term in 2012. He became acting Senate president in 2015 when Republicans took Senate control. This position placed him third in the presidential succession behind then-Vice President Joe Biden and the Speaker of the House.

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 authored a variety of “Hatch Amendments” to the Constitution aimed at reducing the availability of abortions.

The Hatch Foundation announces with sadness the passing of Senator Orrin G. Hatch, former President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate and longest serving Senator in Utah history (1977-2019).

Read more about his incredible life here:https://t.co/XFOMEYbe2l pic.twitter.com/dCGa7ew11f

— Orrin G. Hatch Foundation (@OrrinHatch) April 24, 2022

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.

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 one. 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 quickly become friends 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 had six children: Brent, Marcia, Scott, Kimberly, Alysa and Jess.