When the 116th Congress convenes on Jan. 3, 2019, a pillar of the institution will be missing. After more than four decades, nearly a half century, Orrin Hatch will be absent from the hallowed halls of the world’s most powerful elected body. Sen. Hatch’s legacy is measured in much more than just time. His impact on Utah and his imprint on the nation cause him to stand out from the world’s most deliberative and exclusive organization.
Similar to other leaders before him, Sen. Hatch was born in obscurity and poverty. His current prominence and powerful positions belie his humble roots, born into a working class family in a blue-collar neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Also similar to others before him, his rise from poverty was through education. As the first member of his family to attend college, Sen. Hatch earned a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University, then a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh, which led to a career in law and ultimately public service.
Sen. Hatch’s humble roots shaped him and guided both his policymaking and leadership style. His unrivaled legislative ability is evidenced by the most comprehensive tax reform in a generation, to funding research for cancer and HIV and providing health care for children in the most needful circumstances. In fact, Sen. Hatch has passed more legislation than anyone alive today and is often referenced by his senatorial colleagues as one of the most effective and bipartisan lawmakers.
That said, Orrin Hatch’s most important work as a United States senator was also his most personal. His concern and effort on behalf of everyday Utahns is legendary. Literally thousands of constituents have benefited from his personal engagement in solving problems and navigating the often complex and turbulent channels of the federal bureaucracy.
There are two institutions Orrin Hatch has been part of longer than the United States Senate, his church and his marriage. As an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he has been a champion for religious freedom envisioned in the Constitution. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is a keystone in a long list of important pieces of legislation passed by Sen. Hatch. Orrin Hatch is also a devoted husband and father. He and his wife Elaine have been married more than 60 years. Together they have six children, 23 grandchildren and more than two dozen great-grandchildren.
Next month, Sen. Hatch will retire from the United States Senate as its most senior Republican member, chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, and president pro tempore, which places him third in the presidential line of succession. Leaving the power and influence of Washington, D.C., to spend time with his family is admirable. But no one should make the mistake of thinking Sen. Hatch is done with public life or fighting for the causes he believes in. He is already actively engaged in planning his library, which will house extensive personal papers and legislative documents. The library will also provide research and application for restoring civility and collaboration to our democratic institutions, two hallmarks of Sen. Hatch’s life of public service.
Sen. Hatch, Utah owes you a debt of gratitude, more than we can ever say and for more reasons than we will likely ever know. You could have been a senator from any state in the union. Providence brought you to Utah to our good fortune. We are proud to call you our own United States senator from the great state of Utah.