When Orrin Hatch began his Senate career 38 years ago, the Internet had not been invented, Jimmy Carter was beginning his presidential term, and the Soviet Union had yet to invade Afghanistan. Democrats had a 61-38 majority in the Senate, and Hatch, regarded by many as a young conservative firebrand, had just ousted Frank Moss, a liberal Democrat who entered the Senate in the 1950s, The New York Times reported
Today, Hatch, who turns 81 in March, is a Senate elder statesman. He recently became Senate President Pro Tempore, a largely ceremonial position that traditionally goes to the longest-serving member of the majority party in that chamber. And, for the first time in his long Senate career, Hatch has a security detail.
He now occupies what many describe as a "palatial" office in the U.S. Capitol – one which used to belong to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, a liberal Democrat who became a friend and on numerous occasions a political ally of Hatch – often to the consternation of the Utah lawmaker's conservative allies.
In an interview with Yahoo News, Hatch said he wanted to work for "bipartisan compromise" with members of both parties. He expressed hope that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren – a liberal Democrat who occupies Kennedy's former seat – will become the "new Kennedy" and form a friendship with him "like Kennedy had."
Hatch (dubbed the "happiest senator in Washington"
by Yahoo) described Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, as someone who is "very liberal" but "can move to center," adding, "certainly, I've proven that I can."
At the same time, however, Hatch blasted former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's management of the Senate, which involved using various parliamentary maneuvers to prevent Republicans from offering amendments to legislation "that might embarrass his side or that might be tough votes for his side."
Asked how he approached his fellow Senate Republicans in his new role, Hatch replied that "you tailor your remarks to whatever suits them . . . and whatever will reach them."
Hatch added that he wanted Republicans to behave in an "honest" and "decent" manner towards Democrats.
"There are some great Democrats who could be great legislators but aren't right now," Hatch said. "But they could be."
Hatch's conciliatory tone has rankled many of his fellow conservatives, who say he has gone beyond being fair to Democrats and has backed caving in to them on important matters of principle.
For example, nationally syndicated radio talk-show host Mark Levin
, who supported Hatch in fending off a conservative GOP primary challenge in 2012, apologized to his listeners after the Utah senator joined 13 fellow Republicans in supporting amnesty legislation in June 2013.
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