Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has long been considered a conservative's conservative. But now, right- and left-wing groups say most other Republican senators may be even more conservative than he is.
That's not the only surprise about the Utah congressional delegation in new ratings of their 1990 voting records by a variety of special-interest groups.For example, Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, in recent weeks blasted the American Civil Liberties Union for attacking Utah's new abortion law. So he must not be all that liberal if he attacks the left-wing ACLU and must be seen as anti-abortion, right? Nope. He is rated as among the House's more liberal members by both liberals and conservatives. And the pro-abortion National Abortion Rights Action League gave him among its highest ratings - after it also gave him a "perfect" score in 1989.
But special-interest groups didn't offer any bombshells in their ratings of Sen. Jake Garn, Rep. Jim Hansen and former Rep. Howard Nielson, all R-Utah. They were all seen - as usual - as among the most conservative, pro-business, anti-labor, anti-abortion and pro-family members of Congress.
Freshman Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, was not judged by such groups because he took office this year - after the votes they rated.
Following is a look at how various special interest groups rated Utah's delegation in different areas:
LIBERAL/CONSERVATIVE - All of Utah's Republicans in Congress were viewed as among the most conservative members there, while Owens was viewed as among the more liberal.
That isn't surprising. What is, though, is that Hatch - known in his early Senate years as something of a radical fire-eater among conservatives - is now seen to be less or equally conservative as most Senate Republicans.
For example, the liberal Americans for Democratic Action gave Hatch a low score of 11 out of 100 - showing he is conservative. But 20 other Senate Republicans had lower scores, and five other Republicans had the same score as Hatch.
That meant 25 of the Senate's 44 Republicans besides Hatch last year were seen as more or equally conservative as Hatch.
The American Conservative Union gave similar findings. It gave Hatch a high rating of 87 - but 14 others Senate Republicans had higher scores, and six others tied with Hatch. Hatch wasn't even the most conservative senator from Utah. Garn took that with scores of 95 from the ACU and 6 from the ADA. Garn even tied as the Senate's third most conservative member in ACU rankings.
Still, Hatch is seen as a national spokesman for conservatives because his high positions on labor and judiciary committees often make him their point man on such issues as gun control, the death penalty, flag burning and confirmation of Supreme Court nominees.
One reason Hatch may have been considered relatively less conservative last year was his defense of the National Endowment of the Arts from some who wanted it punished for funding art they considered pornographic. Hatch in recent years has also been seen as more willing to work with liberals to find compromise.
In the House, the liberal ADA figured that no one was more conservative than Hansen - and gave him its "worst" score of zero. It gave Nielson 11 and Owens a 72 - much higher than the average score of 50. The conservative ACU mirrored those ratings with a 92 for Hansen, 83 for Nielson and a low 13 for Owens.
ABORTION - The National Abortion Rights Action League gave Owens among its highest ratings - an 85 out of 100. But given Utah's politics, he likely would have preferred the 0 scores that NARAL gave to all other members of the delegation.
Owens has said he opposes abortion except in the cases of rape or incest or when needed to protect the health of the mother - including her mental health. But Owens also supports government funding of abortions for poor women within those criteria - and his votes for such funding and for family planning projects brought the praise of NARAL.
Owens also received a "perfect" score of 100 from NARAL in 1989 - even though he insists he is anti-abortion in most cases.
BUSINESS GROUPS - They also found Utah Republicans to be on their side, but not Democrat Owens.
For example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gave Nielson a high 93, Garn and Hatch a 92 and Hansen a 79 (relatively low for him). But it gave Owens only a 23.
The National Federation of Independent Business gave Hansen a "perfect" 100, Nielson a 91 and Garn and Hatch an 89. Owens again had only a 23.
ORGANIZED LABOR - Not surprisingly, Owens - who receives heavy campaign contributions from labor unions - was labor's only friend in the delegation.
The AFL-CIO gave him a score of 75 out of 100. Garn and Hatch had scores of 33, Nielson had an 8 and Hansen had a zero.
Hatch's score is somewhat surprising because as ranking Republican on the Senate Labor Committee, he is often in headlines leading fights against minimum wage hikes and strike-breaking measures. But 20 senators received lower pro-labor rankings, and eight others tied with him. So 28 of 44 other Senate Republicans were more or equally anti-labor as Hatch.
SENIOR CITIZENS - The National Council of Senior Citizens considered Owens the delegation's only friend for the elderly. It gives great weight to labor-issue votes (on such things as child care and family leave) that other senior citizen organizations may not - but others do not issue scorecards.
The council gave Owens a score of 67. It gave Garn and Hatch scores of 20, Nielson a 10 and Hansen a zero.
ENVIRONMENT - The League of Conservation Voters considered Owens - who is a champion for environmental causes - as its only friend in the Utah delegation.
It gave Owens a score of 88 out of 100. It gave Garn and Hatch scores of 8 - which tied them for third "worst" in the Senate.
And it gave Hansen and Nielson scores of zero - tying them for absolute "worst" in the House.
FAMILY ISSUES - The conservative Christian Voice organization also issues a scorecard on Christian and family issues ranging from abortion to the death penalty and homosexual rights.
It considered Owens voting record downright un-Christian - giving him a 17 out of 100. It gave Hatch and Nielson scores of 83, Garn a 92 and Hansen a "perfect" 100.