Former Senate colleagues, politicians remember Hatch as ‘giant of the Senate,’ ‘jewel’

Former Senate colleagues and other politicians commemorated longtime Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch (R), the longest serving Republican senator in U.S. history so far, following the news that he died on Saturday, calling him a “jewel” and a “giant of the Senate.”

“Orrin’s decades of leadership drove an unending catalog of major legislative accomplishments and landmark confirmations,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement, touting Hatch’s work on tax reform in 2017, the Americans With Disabilities Act and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

“Orrin was also remarkable for reasons that went beyond his titanic Senate record. He was warm. He was deeply kind and gentlemanly. He cherished his faith and loved his church. He loved music,” McConnell said. “He was also exceptionally funny — hilarious, really — and the most frequent target of his deadpan wit was himself. And Orrin and his beloved Elaine offered the Senate family one of its all-time great stories of love and partnership.”

Hatch’s foundation announced on Saturday that the former president pro tempore of the Senate had died at the age of 88 years old. He served in the upper chamber for 42 years, from 1977 until 2019.

He chaired three major Senate committees, sponsored or cosponsored over 750 pieces of legislation that would eventually be signed into law and worked with colleagues across the aisle to pass legislation like CHIP, which allows families that make too much money to be Medicaid-eligible to provide their children access to low-cost health coverage. 

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said in a statement shared over Twitter that “few men have made their mark on the Senate as he did.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) claimed, however, that Hatch’s decades-long career in the upper chamber “only tells a small portion of his legacy.”

“Orrin was a friend, a mentor, and an example to me and countless others,” Lee said in a statement. “I saw countless times how his brilliant mind, quick wit, and care for his nation, his state, and his colleagues turned pernicious problems into clear paths forward.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) called Hatch “a jewel.”

“Today we lost a jewel and true American statesman in former Senator Orrin Hatch. He was a great colleague & mentor—and left a truly remarkable legacy in the Senate. My heart is with Elaine & the family,” Scott tweeted.

Former Vice President Pence said Hatch was a “true statesman.”

“.@KarenPence & I were saddened to hear of the passing of Orrin Hatch, a true statesman who represented the best of UT & America. As the longest serving Republican Senator in history, he dedicated decades of his life to public service & we’ll always be grateful for his leadership,” Pence tweeted, including a photo of the two of them together.

Democrats also looked back fondly on their time working with the Utah Republican.

“Senator Hatch was kind to me and we worked together well. 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 today,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) tweeted.

“Senator Orrin Hatch was deeply devoted to serving our country. He was intensely courteous, had a wonderful sense of humor, and welcomed me with kindness and generosity when I entered the Senate. My prayers are with his family and loved ones tonight,” Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) said on Twitter. 

Tags Amy Klobuchar Maggie Hassan Mike Lee Mike Pence Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Orrin Hatch Orrin Hatch Tim Scott

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