Politics

Orrin Hatch Prepares for His Senate Exit

Utah Republican has been packing for roughly a year, but his Hart office is still full of memories

UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 11: Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, speaks with Roll Call in his office on Dec. 11, 2018, as he prepares to depart the U.S. Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate’s longest-serving Republican is retiring at the end of this Congress, and he’s been slowly, but surely, packing away decades of accumulation.

President Pro Tempore Orrin G. Hatch began sending boxes of belongings back to Utah about a year ago, but you wouldn’t know it from his personal office on the first floor of the Hart Building.

During a tour of his office Tuesday, Hatch reminisced about his legislative accomplishments over a career dating back to 1977, and his legislative partners from years gone by.

Watch: As Orrin Hatch Prepares to Leave Washington, Reflections on His Battles and His Wins

“I’ve always tried to act properly and not be mean-spirited,” Hatch said. “They began with Ted Kennedy, who I came back here to fight, because I just thought he was way off the charts. … And we ended up becoming the best of friends even though we could get into these humongous fights from time to time that everybody would stop and watch because they knew it was going to be … real Senate work.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, speaks with Roll Call in his office on Dec. 11, 2018, as he prepares to depart the U.S. Senate. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, speaks with Roll Call in his office on Dec. 11, 2018, as he prepares to depart the U.S. Senate. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Hatch returned to this point Wednesday in his farewell speech on the floor.

“By choosing friendship over party loyalty, we were able to pass some of the most significant bipartisan achievements of modern times — from the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to the Ryan White bill and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program,” the Utah senator said.

Watch Hatch’s Farewell Speech:

Nine years after Kennedy’s passing, it’s worth asking: Could a relationship like this even exist in today’s Senate?

Through the years, Hatch ended up serving as chairman of three Senate committees: the panel now known as Health, Education, Labor and Pensions as well as Judiciary and Finance, which he currently heads.

UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 11: Gavels not yet packed are on display outside of Sen. Orrin Hatch's office on Dec. 11, 2018, as he prepares to depart the U.S. Senate. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Gavels not yet packed are on display outside of Sen. Orrin G. Hatch's office on Dec. 11, 2018, as he prepares to depart the Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Hatch said the artwork that adorns the walls of the office is from his own collection, including pieces purchased with his own money from Utah artisans.

“I’ve collected art through the years, and I have a lot of art in my home here, my home out west, and my office out west,” he said. “I have a lot more out there than here.”

None of the pieces were on loan from other national collections.

“These are my collection, and I don’t need National Gallery,” Hatch said. “I’ve got really great artists right there in Utah that have helped me to have some of these great things.”

Highlighting a miniature piano carved from crystal, the senator said, “I have a tendency to hold on to things. There’s a lot of crystal and a lot of these type of awards.”

The piano, he said, was a gift from the music industry years ago.

Among Hatch’s final legislative success stories was bipartisan songwriting royalty legislation along with Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander, which was signed into law in October. Hatch is a songwriter and performer himself. 

“That was a big, big-time bill. That was not some itty-bitty song bill. That was a bill that changed the whole music industry,” he said. 

From the Archives: Hatch and Alexander Play Piano, Discuss Songwriting Legislation

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