Wednesday Q+A With Sen. Orrin Hatch

The Republican stalwart on Gorsuch, tax reform, and his not-quite-announced run for another term.

Sen. Orrin Hatch
Chet Sussln
Alex Rogers
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Alex Rogers
March 28, 2017, 8 p.m.

Or­rin Hatch, the longest-serving Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­or, not only chairs the Fin­ance Com­mit­tee, but he has a prom­in­ent role on the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee as it con­siders the nom­in­a­tion of Neil Gor­such to the Su­preme Court. Hatch spoke to Alex Ro­gers about health care, tax re­form, and his po­ten­tial run for an­oth­er term.

You’ve con­sidered the nom­in­a­tion of every Su­preme Court justice on the bench, and seen the con­firm­a­tion battles get more and more par­tis­an, since you came here in 1977. Now Demo­crats are threat­en­ing to fili­buster Judge Gor­such. Would you sup­port chan­ging the Sen­ate rules to make sure that the nom­in­ee gets con­firmed next week?

Well, let’s put it this way: We in­tend to con­firm Judge Gor­such. And we will con­firm him. So whatever it takes, we’re go­ing to have to do. I would prefer that the Demo­crats not push us in­to a po­s­i­tion where we have to use some ex­traordin­ary means that are with­in the rules, but nev­er­the­less ex­traordin­ary. And I think this is the wrong per­son to do that to be­cause Gor­such has come off so well in the hear­ings and throughout the pro­cess.

Mov­ing on to polit­ics, you’ve de­cided to run for reelec­tion. You’re up in 2018—

Well, I haven’t made that de­cision yet. I know I made a com­ment that I’ll likely run for reelec­tion. I haven’t made that fi­nal de­term­in­a­tion. There are a bunch of reas­ons to do it, a bunch of reas­ons not to do it. For in­stance, Elaine and I have been to­geth­er 60 years, and she’s been a won­der­ful wife and she’s put up with me go­ing 18 hours a day back here and then out there in Utah; I have to take her in­to con­sid­er­a­tion as well. Plus, I’ve es­tab­lished an Or­rin G. Hatch Found­a­tion, and I have to work a little bit on that as well. So these are things that are pulling at me. If I could get a really out­stand­ing per­son to run for my po­s­i­tion, I might very well con­sider it.

Do you have any people in mind?

Well, Mitt Rom­ney would be per­fect.

Has he ex­pressed an in­terest to you?

I’ve ex­pressed it to him. [Laughs.] I can see why he might not want to do it, but I can also see why if he did it, it would be a great thing for Amer­ica.

There are oth­er people who have been men­tioned as pos­sible can­did­ates, in­clud­ing Evan McMul­lin and Jon Hunts­man.

If I de­cide to run again, and I very well may, I’m go­ing to win.

The Amer­ic­an Health Care Act failed to pass the House on Fri­day. Is re­peal and re­place over?

Well, keep in mind that was a very nar­row loss. And they can turn that around. I think a lot de­pends on Speak­er [Paul] Ry­an and what he wants to do. … I don’t know wheth­er he’ll try to bring that up again, but we have to move on to tax re­form. And that’s maybe even more im­port­ant than the health care bill.

Must they drop the bor­der-tax pro­pos­al in the House?

I am con­cerned about it. I think any­body should be con­cerned about it be­cause you don’t know how re­tail­ers in this coun­try are go­ing to take it. They take it very badly right now. I’m not rul­ing it out, but I lean against it.

Does this have to be de­fi­cit-neut­ral?

I don’t think it has to be de­fi­cit-neut­ral. I think that’s a good goal, but if we can get a tax-re­form bill that would stim­u­late this eco­nomy, even though it’s not de­fi­cit-neut­ral, I’ll do it. I’m open to good ideas from wherever they come.

What do you think about this pres­id­ent?

He’s really dif­fer­ent, but I find that re­fresh­ing. I was one of two sen­at­ors who sup­por­ted him—and I’m glad I did. He’s not a politi­cian. He’s a mover and a shaker and a busi­ness­man.

Is Chuck Schu­mer a deal-maker in the mold of some of your former col­leagues?

Used to be. Chuck and I got along very well. I think very highly of him. I hap­pen to be the strongest non-Jew­ish sup­port­er of Is­rael in the world, and I think I’m just as strong as any Jew­ish per­son in sup­port of Is­rael. But we be­came very good friends. I’m very dis­ap­poin­ted—the route he has taken in these first few months. I un­der­stand to a de­gree be­cause they were bit­ter about [Judge Mer­rick Gar­land] not get­ting through.

Do you re­gret that?

No. When we get Gor­such on there it’s go­ing to be a much bet­ter Court, al­though I con­sidered [Gar­land] a very fine man. … [I let him know] I would vote for him when Hil­lary [Clin­ton] won and that I would help him get through. But I also said Hil­lary has got to win. And he knew that too. He was very adult about it. A won­der­ful man.

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