Former Sen. Orin Hatch, conservative who championed Clarence Thomas and Donald Trump, dies at 88

Utah Republican was staunch defender of Clarence Thomas in 1991 and Donald Trump tax cuts in 2017.

Published: April 23, 2022 9:53pm

Updated: April 23, 2022 10:18pm

Orrin G. Hatch, a staunch conservative who became the longest-serving U.S. senator in Utah history, died Saturday at age 88, his foundation announced.

The Utah Republican commanded respect from both sides of the aisle after his election in 1976, steadfastly opposing abortion throughout his 42-year career while frequently riding to the defense of conservatives under fire.

Hatch, for instance, was a relentless defender of Clarence Thomas during the 1991 Supreme Court nomination fight and near the end of his career handed Donald Trump one of his first legislative victories by shepherding the 2017 tax cuts through the Senate Finance Committee.

But Hatch also befriended Democrats, including the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, helping to pass multiple bipartisan laws during his career.

“He exemplified a generation of lawmakers brought up on the principles of comity and compromise, and he embodied those principles better than anyone," Hatch Foundation chairman A. Scott Anderson said Saturday night. “In a nation divided, Orrin Hatch helped show us a better way by forging meaningful friendships on both sides of the aisle. Today, more than ever, we would do well to follow his example.”

Hatch became a solid ally to Donald Trump before retiring in 2019, yielding his seat to its current holder, Mitt Romney. Trump awarded Hatch the Medal of Freedom. 

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