- 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 US Sen. Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving Republican in Senate history and the longest-serving senator from Utah, died Saturday. He was 88.
Hatch served 42 years in the Senate, from 1977 to 2019, including some time as the president pro tempore of the chamber, a ceremonial leadership position typically reserved for senior members. He was known for working across the aisle, and the late US Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., was one of his closest friends of his.
“At the time of his retirement, Senator Hatch held the distinction of having passed more legislation into law than any other Senator then alive,” said a statement Saturday from the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation. “Through his relentless work ethic, Hatch earned a reputation as one of the most effective and bipartisan lawmakers of all time.”
reactions:Democratic and GOP lawmakers pay tribute to late Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah
Of the nearly 800 bills he sponsored or co-sponsored, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program are among his top bipartisan accomplishments.
US Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Remembered Hatch for his bipartisanship.
“Senator Hatch was kind to me and we worked together well,” she said in a statement Saturday. “There were a lot of differences including party, height, age… you name it… but somehow we always looked for common ground. Prayers for his family from him today.”
“So sad to hear of the death of Orrin Hatch,” former US Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said in a tweet Saturday night. “His ability to reach across the aisle defined his career and his character. He will be missed.”
Bipartisanship – but with the ability to play tough
Though in his death he is being remembered for his bipartisan efforts, he did oppose his fair share of Democratic agendas. He voted against the Equal Rights Amendment, used the filibuster to block fair housing bills and pushed bills to ban abortions.
Hatch was used to playing tough — he learned to box as a child in Pittsburgh to fend off the attacks of older, larger students. Unafraid to fight, he said he always made a point to quickly become friends with those he had arguments with.
When Hatch announced he would not seek re-election in 2018, he said “every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves.”
One of his biggest legislative accomplishments came at the end of his career when he worked with the Trump administration to pass a major tax bill in December 2017.
Shortly after that, on Jan. 2, 2018, Hatch announced he would withdraw from the Senate instead of seeking reelection. He retired on Jan. 3, 2019. Hatch’s retirement paved the way for Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, to run and win.
Before his retirement, former President Donald Trump gave Hatch 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 he left the Senate, he said: “I believe this is the most important government in the world, the most important country in the world. I believe that this nation was brought about by our Father in heaven and that we have an obligation to live worthy of that and to keep it going.”
Hatch was born into a working-class family on March 22, 1934, in Homestead Park, near Pittsburgh. According to his eponymous foundation, his Hatch’s mother was a homemaker and his father was a union metal lather.
The future senator earned a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh and cheered for the city’s sports teams.
Retiring Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., mentioned Hatch’s Pennsylvania roots, as he remembered the late senator.
“Senator Hatch was a gentleman, 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, with whom he was married for more than 60 years, and their six children.
Contributing: 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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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism