Sen. Orrin Hatch (R)
Elected: 1976, term expires 2012, 6th term.
Born: March 22, 1934, Pittsburgh, PA .
Home: Salt Lake City.
Education: Brigham Young U., B.S. 1959; U. of Pittsburgh, J.D. 1962.
Family: Married (Elaine); 6 children.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1962–76.
Republican Orrin Hatch, Utah’s senior senator, was first elected to the Senate in 1976. Hatch grew up in Pittsburgh, where his father was a metal lather. The family lost their home during the Depression, and lived for a time in a shelter made of salvaged wood and metal. They had no indoor plumbing. He worked his way through Brigham Young University as a janitor and a metal lather, like his father. He went on to get a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and practiced law there. He and his wife and their young family moved to Salt Lake City, and the newly minted lawyer got interested in politics. In 1976, he ran for the U.S. Senate; an endorsement from Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan helped him get attention and he ultimately won the GOP nomination. In the general, he upset three-term Democrat Frank Moss 54%-45%. His toughest re-election fight came in 1982, when he was opposed by Democratic Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson. Hatch won 58%-41%.
|Orrin Hatch (R)||356,238||(63%)||($3,340,902)|
|Pete Ashdown (D)||177,459||(31%)||($255,729)|
|Jeb Bradley (CNP)||21,526||(4%)||($24,526)|
|Orrin Hatch (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2000 (66%), 1994 (69%), 1988 (67%), 1982 (58%), 1976 (54%)
Hatch’s Senate career has been shaped by two impulses that are sometimes in tension with each other: a strong conservative philosophy and a sense of responsibility to pass legislation. He first attracted attention in a Senate dominated by Democrats when he successfully filibustered the AFL-CIO’s labor law bill, which had been expected to pass. Then, in just four years, he became chairman of the Labor Committee after Republicans won a Senate majority in 1980. He remained a strong opponent of the striker replacement law sought by unions. On the Judiciary Committee, he fought abortion rights legislation and a civil rights bill that produced racial quotas and preferences. He also staunchly defended conservative Supreme Court nominees Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. In 1995, Hatch became chairman of the Judiciary Committee, where he worked on limiting tort liability and regulatory law and managed the balanced budget amendment to one-vote defeats in 1995 and 1997. He also helped draft the 2001 USA Patriot Act, the Bush administration’s centerpiece anti-terrorism law, and in 2004 defended it against attempts to eliminate some of its main provisions. “It seems to me that we should not make it any harder to go after suspected terrorists than after suspected drug dealers,” Hatch said. During negotiations to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Hatch supported a provision to grant retroactive immunity to phone companies that had participated in the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. Hatch described the phone companies as “patriotic” in a speech on the Senate floor. The FISA reauthorization passed the Senate in 2008 with a retroactive immunity provision for the companies.
Hatch has taken some surprising and bipartisan positions. In 1997, he joined liberal Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy in sponsoring a $24 billion program to get states to provide health insurance for children of low-income working parents who don’t qualify for Medicaid. Despite his longstanding opposition to abortion, he has supported embryonic-stem-cell research and argued that life is created in the womb, “not in a petri dish.” In 2004, he gained wide bipartisan support for setting up a trust fund to handle asbestos cases, but in 2005, when incoming Chairman and then-Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania proposed a $140 billion trust fund, some businesses withdrew their support. In 2006, the Senate passed a measure Hatch sponsored with Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin that required reporting to the Food and Drug Administration bad side effects of dietary supplements and over-the-counter drugs. Hatch has expressed doubts about the use of mandatory minimum sentences in some drug cases and has interceded on behalf of a music producer arrested in the United Arab Emirates and a young Utahn who fled the country, both of whom he believes were treated unjustly. With then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., he got a provision in a tax bill to bar bankruptcy courts from preventing the carrying out of charitable and tithing pledges.
But Hatch has also defended to the hilt traditional Republican positions, sponsoring bills to restrict class action lawsuits and to set limits on medical malpractice cases. As chairman of the committee from June 2001 to January 2003 and as the ranking minority member, Hatch defended the Bush Justice Department and judicial nominees against Democrats’ attacks, and took them to task for refusing to hold hearings on many appointees when they were in the majority. Hatch in 2007 staunchly defended embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Gonzales’ role in the controversial firings of eight U.S. attorneys. Hatch stood out as one of Gonzales’ sole defenders, saying the attacks were an attempt by Democrats to indirectly sully Bush’s reputation. After the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that its state constitution required legalization of same-sex marriages, Hatch proposed a constitutional amendment that would authorize states to refuse to recognize such marriages contracted in another state. After same-sex couples in Massachusetts started obtaining marriage licenses, Hatch supported the amendment sponsored by Colorado Republican Wayne Allard that would ban same-sex marriage altogether. Hatch has opposed federal gun control measures and in 2003 sponsored a bill to make it easier to carry handguns in the District of Columbia.
Another of his strong interests is the issue of protecting intellectual property in the face of technological advance. He supported the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 banning unlawful downloading of copyrighted music and movies and backed the record industry against the threat raised by Napster. In 2004, the Senate passed his bill, co-sponsored with Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont, to authorize the Justice Department to bring civil lawsuits as well as criminal actions for illegal downloading. In 2007, Hatch, with Leahy, co-sponsored bipartisan legislation revising patent law, but it stalled in committee. Leahy reintroduced the bill in 2009 and forged a compromise with Specter and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to assure its passage in the Judiciary Committee. The compromise included changes that Hatch argued undermined the bill’s ability to limit litigation costs and improve patent quality, two of the reasons he pushed for the patent bill in the first place. He ended up voting against the legislation, but it passed the Judiciary Committee 15-4.
Hatch’s interest in these issues is not just theoretical. He has long written poetry and in 1995 began writing songs. He has since written about 300, some of which have been recorded by a Utah firm, including a 13-song album of Christmas music. Some of his songs have been recorded by singer Gladys Knight, a convert to the Mormon Church. His music has earned praise from Bono, the lead singer of the popular and politically-oriented rock band U2. In 2003, the two men met to discuss the AIDS crisis in Africa, and the singer suggested for Hatch the state name “Johnny Trapdoor.” One of his songs was used in the movie Ocean’s 12. In 2006, Hatch lobbied for the release of rapper John Forte, imprisoned five years earlier for possession of liquid cocaine. Forte, whom Hatch referred to as a genius in letters asking for his release, had his sentence commuted by President George W. Bush in December 2008.
Hatch and Utah colleague Bob Bennett for some time supported a permanent nuclear waste repository in Yucca Mountain, Nev., on the theory it was better to have the waste transported over Utah than deposited there. They worked together to prevent the Skull Valley Branch of the Goshute Indians’ proposal to store radioactive waste on their reservation, and in 2005 helped to get a wilderness area provision in the defense bill which appeared to block railroad transport to the site.
Every senator, it sometimes seems, must run for president, and the time came for Hatch with the 2000 election. He conceded that it would take a “miracle” to win, but argued that he had more experience in federal office than the other candidates and could work with Democrats, and that he was not “beholden to the Republican establishment.” In the Iowa caucuses in January 2000, he won only 1% of the vote, fewer than Republican John McCain, who did not campaign in the state. Two days later, he withdrew from the race and endorsed Bush. In the 2008 presidential primaries, Hatch endorsed fellow Mormon Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. At the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention, he spoke out against what he considered religious bigotry and negative discourse on the Mormon Church during the campaign season.
In 2000, Hatch won 66%-31% and became the first Utahn popularly elected five times to the Senate. The only other five-term senator in Utah history, Reed Smoot, who served from 1903 to 1933, was elected to his first term by the Legislature. In 2006, he won 63%-31% and after he was sworn into his sixth term became the longest-serving senator in Utah history.