Former U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, who represented Utah for more than four decades and became the longest-serving Republican Senator in history, died Saturday at the age of 88.
His death was announced in a statement from his Hatch Foundation saying the former senator passed away at 5:30 pm in Salt Lake City while surrounded by family. The foundation did not specify a cause.
He launched the Hatch Foundation as he retired in 2019 and was replaced by Republican Mitt Romney.
Hatch, who in his early years was an amateur boxer, decided to challenge three-term Democratic Senator Frank Moss in the 1976 Utah Senate race. After unseating Moss, Hatch began a career that would span 41 years and a vast array of accomplishments while he chaired the powerful committees on Finance, the Judiciary, and Labor.
Hatch served in the senate, from 1977 until 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 U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), was one of his closest friends.
During the Bill Clinton administration, Hatch shepherded one of his signature accomplishments the Senate, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), now known as CHIP, partnering with his friend Senator Ted Kennedy. Chip provided health insurance coverage to millions of children across the United States.
Hatch helped usher through legislation toughening child pornography laws, fighting to limit or outlaw abortion, and making illegally downloading music a prosecutable crime.
The music-download issue was a personal one for Hatch. As a member of the faith widely known as Mormon, he frequently wrote religious songs and recorded music in his spare time as a way to relax from the stresses of life in Washington. One of his songs, “Unspoken,” went platinum after appearing on “WOW Hits 2005,” a compilation of Christian pop music.
In his retirement announcement in 2018, Hatch said he had “authored more bills that have become law than any member of Congress alive today.” He also ran briefly ran for president in 1999 before endorsing George W. Bush.
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.
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 January 2, 2018 Hatch announced he would retire from the Senate instead of seeking reelection. Despite the encouragement of President Trump to seek reelection, he retired on January 3, 2019, which paved the way for Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), to run and win.
Before his retirement, former President Donald Trump gave Hatch the ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom,” the nations civilian honor.
Orrin Hatch was born into a working-class family on March 22, 1934, in Homestead Park, near Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. According to his Hatch Foundation, his other was a homemaker and his father was a union metal lather.
A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Hatch was the first in his family to attend colleg, when he attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, receiving a B.A. degree in History in 1959. He then earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh in 1962. He practiced law in Pittsburgh before moving to Utah in the late 1960’s.
Retiring Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), mentioned Hatch’s Pennsylvania roots, as he remembered the late Senator. Toomey said, “Senator Hatch was a gentleman, a statesman and a proud son of Pennsylvania. My deepest condolences go out to the entire Hatch family and to all who knew and loved him.”
We completely agree with Senator Toomey’s assessment of Senator Hatch. He was a true gentleman and statesman.
Orrin Hatch is survived by his wife, Elaine, with who he was marred for more than 60 years, and their six children.