Orrin G. Hatch, who became the longest-serving Republican senator in history as he represented 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, per the AP. He launched the Hatch Foundation as he retired in 2019 and was replaced in the Senate by Republican Mitt Romney. A conservative on most economic and social issues, he nonetheless teamed with Democrats several times during his long career on issues ranging from stem cell research to rights for people with disabilities to expanding children’s health insurance. He also formed friendships across the aisle, particularly with the late Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
“He exemplified a generation of lawmakers brought up on the principles of comity and compromise, and he embodied those principles better than anyone," said Hatch Foundation chairman A. Scott Anderson in a statement. “In a nation divided, Orrin Hatch helped show us a better way by forging meaningful friendships on both sides of the aisle. Today, more than ever, we would do well to follow his example.” Hatch also championed GOP issues like abortion limits and helped shape the US Supreme Court, defending Justice Clarence Thomas against sexual harassment allegations during his confirmation hearings.
Toward the end of his career, Hatch became an ally of President Trump, using his role as chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee to get a major rewrite of the US tax codes to the president’s desk. In return, Trump helped Hatch deliver on a key issue for Republicans in Utah by agreeing to drastically downsize two national monuments that had been declared by past presidents. Hatch was also noted for his side career as a singer and recording artist of music with themes of 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 a 1976 election win and went onto become the longest-serving senator in Utah history, winning a seventh term in 2012. He became the Senate president pro tempore in 2015 when Republicans took control of the Senate. The position made him third in the line of presidential succession behind then-Vice President Joe Biden and the Speaker of the House. His tenure places him as the longest-serving GOP senator, behind several Democrats.
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