Romney Honors the Life and Legacy of Senator Orrin Hatch

I rise today to honor and celebrate the life and legacy of an extraordinary man, a giant among senators, and a dear friend, Senator Orrin Hatch. He was a man of vision and unparalleled legislative accomplishment. As the longest serving Senator in Utah’s history, his unwavering dedication to our state and country during four decades of public service will be remembered for generations to come.

Few individuals have left such an indelible mark on the United States Senate. He did this through his legislation. He did it through the relationships he had with other senators. He did it through bipartisanship. He did it through his relationship with presidents of both parties. Like his good friend Ted Kennedy, he was a lion of the Senate. Now I know that there have been a number of senators who take responsibility for accomplishing many things, but I don’t think there’s ever been a legislator that has gotten more done legislatively than Orrin Hatch. Our judiciary, the fundamentals of our economy, even our national character are more elevated and more secure thanks to his leadership—thanks to his undaunted capacity to plow ahead.

Sponsoring and co-sponsoring more legislation than any member at the time of his retirement, he used his time in this Chamber to work tirelessly to help people who sometimes were overlooked. He reached across the aisle to forge strong bipartisan relationships that allowed him to pass landmark legislation.

Now Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy were once signing a bill together—celebrating the same bill—and President Reagan turned to Orrin Hatch and said, “How is it that you and Ted Kennedy are celebrating the same piece of legislation?” And Orrin turned back and looked at him and said, “Well, it’s very simple, Mr. President. It’s clear that one thing is obvious: one of us didn’t read it.”

His sense of humor was well-known in this Chamber, and throughout our state. His friends often remarked that Orrin could have been a stand-up comic if he wanted to. But he had too many important things to do to take that job seriously.

He put friendship above politics. He called me in 1994—I was then running for a Senate seat against Ted Kennedy. Kind of a tall task for a guy from Massachusetts to go up against Ted Kennedy, but I figured someone needed to do it and wanted to see if I couldn’t get Ted Kennedy on the right track. But at that time, Orrin Hatch and I hardly knew each other. We were just distant acquaintances. But he was a close friend of Ted Kennedy’s and he called me and said, “Mitt, you know I’m a Republican, too. I’m responsible for helping get a lot of Republicans elected. But I’m not going to come campaign for you.” And he said, “Because Ted Kennedy is just that good of a friend.” Orrin put friendship above politics.

Now in addition to his legislative accomplishments, Orrin Hatch played a pivotal role in several landmark confirmations while serving as one of the longest chairs of the Senate Judiciary Committee. His positive impact on the state of Utah and the nation’s federal judiciary cannot be overstated.

Now when I was asked to run the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, I met with Orrin Hatch and said, “I’m going to need your help.” And he made it very clear that the success of the Olympics, coming as they were going to do to our state, would be a high priority for him and he would do whatever was necessary to support our effort. And then came the crisis of 9/11 of 2001. I knew that I could not invite the people of the world to come to Salt Lake City unless I was 100% confident that everything that could be done would be done to keep them safe. And without the help of the federal government, there could be no secure provision for the Games and no certainty that we could be protected.

The morning after the attacks of 9/11, I happened to be in Washington and I called Senator Hatch on the phone. He, at the time, was in his Senate office. I asked if we could get together at some point to talk about how we could move forward and provide the security funding that might be necessary to protect our Games. Without hesitation, he said, “Come over to the office, right now.”

I did so. When we got there, we sat down. He said, “What do you think you need?” And I described the need for fencing, and personnel to evaluate the security threats that might exist, a military air capacity to secure the skies over Salt Lake City during the Games. And he said, “What’s the biggest challenge that you’ll face?” I said, “Well, Senator, John McCain of Arizona has not been a fan of providing support for Olympic Games. He thinks that money has been misused in the past.” He said, “well it wouldn’t be misused now, given what happened on 9/11 and he said let’s go see John McCain right now.” And he picked up the phone and called Senator McCain. Senator McCain said he would be happy to see me and his friend Orrin Hatch. We went over to Senator McCain’s office and sat down and Orrin Hatch proceeded to describe how important it was that we host the Games, and that Senator Hatch get the support he needed. In fact, Senator McCain made it very clear that he would not stand in the way of anything that would be needed to secure the Games in Salt Lake City. So I owe Orrin Hatch a great deal of credit for helping us be able to host Games in Salt Lake City successfully, and to do so without a security incident.

Now I think everyone knows that Orrin Hatch was a man of tremendous faith. He was an advocate to protect religious freedom, and legislation that he authored in this regard still stands in protecting the rights of people of faith in our country today. He dedicated his life to a commitment to Jesus Christ and to the principles of Christianity. He did so in my own faith by accepting callings in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—serving both as a missionary as a young man and later as a Bishop of a congregation.

Orrin Hatch enjoyed life and appreciated all that it had to offer. You may know that he was a composer and has a number of songs and musical performances to his credit. He wrote poetry, he wrote jokes. When I was running for president, he sent me a whole page of jokes he wanted me to use. I must admit, I looked at them one-by-one, and I didn’t think they were that funny. But I read them to the people on the bus and they listened to them one-by-one, and the more they listened, the funnier they got, and by the time I was finished with the page, they were howling with laughter. The man had an extraordinary capacity with music, with humor, with legislation, with friendships, really one of a kind.

He also was pretty good at self-deprecating humor. He told me to lighten up a little bit, and be a little more free with my language, so I decided to let “heck” and “dang” drop into my words from time to time. His affinity for buffets and bacon were not to be forgotten as well. In his words, we should choose “to live everyday like it is Bacon Lovers Day.” I hope we will savor life as he did.

Orrin Hatch believed that the people you love and the friends that you have are the real currency in life. I believe that deeply. He had a lot of friends, not just in this room, but friends throughout these buildings, friends throughout our state. I remember walking through the Capitol with Orrin Hatch, and from time to time someone would come up to him and want to ask him a question or ask for help on some issue of theirs. Instead of doing like most of us do, which is putting our head down and rushing on and pointing out that we have important things to get to, he would stop and bend his very tall physique down to listen to what the person had to say, and would listen attentively and say he would do what he could to help. I have seen that time and time again with Orrin Hatch. He always had time for the people he served, and he believed he served all the people of the United States of America. Not surprisingly, he had and still has a lot of friends.

Of course, when you think of people he loves, first on that list would be his wife Elaine and their family. They together raised six children, 23 grandchildren, and 26 great-grandchildren. He and Elaine were married for more than six decades. She has been by him every step of his career and his political involvement in our country. Ann and I send our deepest condolences to Elaine and to the entire Hatch family.

God be with you until we meet again, Orrin. I hope you feel that I haven’t let you down taking your place in this great chamber.