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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch answers questions from BYU students while speaking on campus Monday.

PROVO — The financial outlook for the country is "blood-curdling" if things don't change in Washington, Sen. Orrin Hatch told a few hundred BYU students Monday. "I don't envy you, if these people keep going the way they are," said Hatch, R-Utah, who was invited to speak on the Provo campus by the student-run Democrat and Republican clubs.

Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, spoke Friday as part of the university's political neutrality policy.

The "people" Hatch spoke of are Democrats who have been pushing a $2.5 trillion health care bill that threatens to bankrupt the rising generation, he said. The new bill nearly dominated the hourlong question-and-answer session.

"There are parts that we know about, that it won't pay for abortions and kids will have health insurance," asked Davita Washington, a senior in political science. "But what else is in that bill that we don't know that we should know?"

Hatch said he wished there could have been more bipartisan cooperation on the bill.

"If you pass a bill that affects one-sixth of the American economy and every one of you young people, and you can't get 70 to 80 bipartisan votes, it's a lousy bill," he said. "There was not one Republican who was willing to stand up and vote for the lousy bill."

To answer a question about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hatch said Obama has become less of an advocate for pulling out now that he's seen the classified information on the Middle East.

Hatch said America's presence is necessary in Afghanistan to prevent the Taliban from taking over the adjacent nuclear state of Pakistan and threatening the entire world, and that entry in Iraq was based on erroneous, but believed information about weapons of mass destruction.

Matt Kearney from Provo asked Hatch what he thought about the idea to limit the terms of senators and representatives.

"Now having been in the Senate for my 34th year, I'm not a very enthusiastic supporter of term limits," he said. "But we do have term limits in our country, it's called the ballot box."

He said limitations are bad because many legislators need more than two terms to understand the archaic rules. Second-term senators could also be tempted to "feather their nests" and set themselves up for lobbying positions after they're out.

Solving the problems in the country will take everyone, whether Republican or Democrat.

"The Democrat ideas are not insincere ideas; their hope is that they can help people," he said. "But they help people by making them subject to federal government largess." Republicans want to help people become independent and free of governmental assistance — the way America was born, he said.

"We're in danger of losing America," Hatch told the students. "And people here at BYU ought to understand that better than anyone else. We can stop this, but it depends an awful lot on you young people."