Orrin Hatch, GOP senator, dies at 88
Orrin Hatch, the towering Utah lawmaker who served as the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history, died Saturday night at age 88.
First elected in 1977 when Jimmy Carter was president, he spent 42 years in the upper house, serving in several influential committee chairs, including at the top of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. He also served as acting president of the Senate, the chamber’s highest ceremonial role, and briefly sought his party’s presidential nomination in 2000.
Hatch’s death was announced by the Hatch Foundation, an organization he founded.
“Senator Orrin G. Hatch personified the American dream,” the group’s executive director, Matt Sandgren, said in a statement. “Born the son of a carpenter and a plasterer, he overcame the poverty of his youth to become a United States Senator.”
Sandgren highlighted the senator’s work on issues ranging from “taxation and trade to religious liberty and health care,” saying, “Senator Hatch has touched the hearts of countless people, and I know I speak for each of them when I say they will be sorely missed. ”
On the finance committee, Hatch played a key role in guiding the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 — the last major U.S. tax reform — through the Senate and into law. More than 750 bills he sponsored or co-sponsored eventually became law, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the state Children’s Health Insurance Program Act. He retired in 2018 and was replaced by Sen. Mitt Romney (R., Utah).
The Hatch Foundation noted that when he retired, “Hatch had the distinction of having passed more laws than any other living senator.”
He also played a prominent role in the conservative movement as a co-founder of the Federalist Society in 1982, an organization created to spread conservative ideas in the legal community. It has since become one of the most influential foundations in the United States, with dozens of its members serving in high-profile positions in government and federal justice, including six of the current nine members of the Supreme Court. By the time Hatch retired from politics, Washington Post Journal noted that he had reached an “unprecedented peak of power and influence”.
Hatch was also a musician, playing the piano, violin, and organ and recording several songs for the Church of Latter-day Saints and popular labels. His song “Souls Along the Way” was featured in Ocean’s Twelvewhile the song “Heal Our Land” was performed at the second inauguration of George W. Bush in 2005. Frank Zappa also recorded a song with Hatch titled “Orrin Hatch on Skis”.