Not everyone is afforded a graceful exit from the political stage. But few, if any, public servants in the history of our country and our state deserve accolades and commendation more than Sen. Orrin Hatch as he begins his last year of service in the U.S. Senate.
Now entering his 42nd year of service in the Senate, Hatch is the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history and the longest-serving senator in Utah history. But it isn’t mere longevity that sets Hatch apart — it is the depth, breadth and strength of his service.
For example, as a result of his abilities to work with others and build consensus, Hatch has written more bills that have become law than any other member of Congress. And he has also passed more bills into law than any member of Congress in the last 50 years.
Even more impressive, nearly every landmark piece of legislation that Congress has passed since 1990, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and, most recently, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, bears his strong imprint.
Many in Washington pine for more bipartisanship. Hatch practices it. This was certainly evident when he worked alongside Sen. Ted Kennedy to pass the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which ensures that millions of children from low-income families receive medical care that they would not otherwise obtain.
In the spirit of our Founding Fathers, Sen. Hatch knows that compromise is what is needed in many instances in order to get things done.
Although some critics claim he has stopped reaching across the aisle, Hatch passed more bipartisan bills than any other senator — 45 to be exact — in this last Congress alone. Little wonder then that the nonpartisan Center for Effective Lawmaking declared Hatch the most effective member of the U.S. Senate.
Hatch’s lasting imprint on the national judiciary and American jurisprudence is equally hard to overstate. Over the past four decades he has played a leading role in the confirmation process of every U.S. Supreme Court justice and nearly 1,900 federal judges.
While Hatch has always strived to achieve the greatest good for the entire country, he has never forgotten the importance of reaching out to individuals, regardless of that person’s political views or station in life. That is why his office’s daily constituent service on behalf of Utah’s citizens has a reputation for being second to none.
Assisted by a capable and resourceful staff, Sen. Hatch is always working on hundreds of individual cases for Utahns. And when expedient, he often intervenes directly by placing calls, writing personal letters and sending urgent emails. As a result, he’s known for cutting through government red tape and getting prompt action for constituents, which often leads to positive and, in some cases, life-altering outcomes.
I first met Hatch in the late 1960s in Pittsburg where I was serving as a Mormon missionary and he was an up-and-coming, successful attorney. The intelligent, hardworking man I knew then is the same man I know now — a well-spoken man of abiding integrity who loves his family and his country and cares deeply about serving others to the best of his ability.
Decades from now, Hatch’s legacy of a freer, stronger and kinder America will continue to bless the lives of Utahns and countless Americans.
Today, on behalf of a very grateful state, I salute Sen. Orrin Hatch. America and your home state are better because of your efforts. And all of us who have had the privilege of working with you are better people because of that association.
Thank you for your service.
Gary R. Herbert is the governor of Utah.