Hatch laments loss of civility for Senate
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Outgoing U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah bemoaned the disappearance of political civility, kinship and cross-party collaboration during a farewell speech Wednesday where he called the Senate a legislative body in “crisis.”
Hatch, 84, will step down next month as the longest-serving Republican senator in history after 42 years. After helping pass a sweeping overhaul of the tax code and persuading President Donald Trump to downsize two sprawling national monuments in Utah, Hatch announced in January he wouldn’t seek an eighth term.
Speaking on the Senate floor in Washington, Hatch said he felt sadness about the state of the U.S. Senate and longingly remembered when lawmakers from both political parties “worked constructively” together for the “good of the country.” He called for greater unity.
“The Senate I’ve describe is not some fairly tale, but the reality we once knew,” said Hatch, who joined the Senate in 1977. “Things weren’t always as they are now. I was here when this body was at its best.”
He added: “Our challenge is to rise above the din and divisiveness of today’s politics. It is to tune out the noise and tune into reason. It is to choose a patience over impulse, and fact over feeling.”
Hatch has long been a staunch conservative but worked across the aisle with the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. He also authored landmark bipartisan legislation, increasing access to generic drugs.
“Teddy and I were a case study in contradictions. He was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat; I was a resolute Republican,” Hatch said. “But by choosing friendship over party loyalty, we were able to pass some of the most significant bipartisan achievements of modern times. . . .Nine years after Teddy’s passing, it’s worth asking: Could a relationship like this even exist in today’s Senate?”
Hatch has also clashed with opponents in recent years. During a tax-cut debate with Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio last year, Hatch said he was tired of the Democrat’s “bull crap.” Earlier this year, Hatch used an expletive during a speech to describe supporters of former President Barack Obama’s health care law, though he later apologized.