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
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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