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Orrin Hatch
Orrin Hatch official photo, 2015.jpg
Official portrait, 2015
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
In office
January 3, 2015 – January 3, 2019
Preceded by Patrick Leahy
Succeeded by Chuck Grassley
United States Senator
from Utah
In office
January 3, 1977 – January 3, 2019
Preceded by Frank Moss
Succeeded by Mitt Romney
Personal details
Orrin Grant Hatch

(1934-03-22)March 22, 1934
Homestead, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died April 23, 2022(2022-04-23) (aged 88)
Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
Political party Republican
Elaine Hansen
(m. 1957)
Children 6
Education Brigham Young University (BA)
University of Pittsburgh (JD)
Awards Presidential Medal of Freedom (2018)
Canterbury Medal (2020)

Orrin Grant Hatch (March 22, 1934 – April 23, 2022) was an American attorney and politician who served as a United States senator from Utah from 1977 to 2019. Hatch's 42-year Senate tenure made him the longest-serving Republican U.S. senator in history, overtaking Ted Stevens, until Chuck Grassley surpassed him in 2023.

Hatch chaired the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions from 1981 to 1987. He served as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1995 to 2001 and 2003 to 2005. On January 3, 2015, after the 114th United States Congress was sworn in, he became president pro tempore of the Senate. He was chair of the Senate Finance Committee from 2015 to 2019, and led efforts to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Early life and education

Orrin Grant Hatch was born in Homestead, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh. He was the son of Jesse Hatch (1904–1992), a metal lather, and his wife Helen Frances Hatch (née Kamm; 1906–1995). Hatch had eight brothers and sisters, two of whom died during infancy.

Hatch, who grew up in poverty, was the first in his family to attend college; he attended Brigham Young University and earned a Bachelor of Arts in history in 1959. He also fought 11 bouts as an amateur boxer. In 1962, Hatch received a Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Hatch has stated that during law school, he and his young family resided in a refurbished chicken coop behind his parents' house. Hatch worked as an attorney in Pittsburgh and moved to Utah in 1969, where he continued to practice law.

U.S. Senate tenure

President Donald Trump visits Roland R. Wright Air National Guard Base
Hatch with President Donald Trump and Senator Mike Lee in 2017

Hatch took office as a U.S. senator on January 3, 1977. He chaired the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions from 1981 to 1987. He also served as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

Hatch long expressed interest in serving on the United States Supreme Court. It was reported that he was on Ronald Reagan's short list of candidates to succeed Lewis F. Powell Jr. on the Supreme Court, but was passed over at least in part because of the Ineligibility Clause.

Orrin Hatch and Queen Elizabeth II
Hatch meeting Queen Elizabeth II in 1991

On January 3, 2015, after the 114th United States Congress was sworn in, Hatch became President pro tempore of the Senate.

Hatch announced on January 2, 2018, that he would retire from the Senate instead of seeking re-election that November. Hatch retired from the Senate on January 3, 2019, having served there for 42 years. At the time of his retirement announcement, he was the longest-serving U.S. Senator in Utah history (having eclipsed previous record-holder Reed Smoot in 2007), the longest-serving Republican U.S. Senator in the history of Congress, and also one of the longest-serving Republican members of Congress in the history of the United States. In the latter distinction, Hatch was surpassed in length of service by fellow senators Ted Stevens and Strom Thurmond, who joined the Republican Party in 1964, and was later surpassed by Chuck Grassley and Don Young.

Political positions


Hatch visits at the White House with President George W. Bush following the September 11 attacks.

In 1995, Hatch was the leading figure behind the Senate's anti-terrorism bill, to a large extent a response to the Oklahoma City Bombing. Elements of the bill were criticised by the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee on civil liberties grounds, especially the new limits imposed on habeas corpus in capital cases.

As a senior member of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, Hatch was also instrumental in the 2008 extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. He said, "This bipartisan bill will help defeat terrorism and keep America safe. No, the legislation is not perfect, but it ensures that the increased expansion of the judiciary into foreign intelligence gathering doesn't unnecessarily hamper our intelligence community."


Hatch voted in favor of the 2008 legislation that established the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). In 2011, Hatch said that he "probably made a mistake voting for it", and also claimed "at the time, we were in real trouble and it looked like we were ready for a depression. I believe we would have gone into a depression." He voted against the renewal of TARP in 2009, and the renewal was voted down by 10 votes in the Senate.

Hatch voted in favor of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. The bill authorized $300 billion to guarantee mortgages and restore confidence in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Balanced budget amendment

Hatch was a longtime advocate of amending the United States Constitution to require that total spending of the federal government for any fiscal year not exceed total receipts.

During his time in the Senate, Hatch sponsored a balanced budget amendment 17 times—4 times as lead sponsor and 13 times as a co-sponsor. He also voted in favor of passing a Balanced Budget Amendment on at least nine occasions. Hatch's proposed amendment passed the House of Representatives in 1997, but failed to pass the Senate by the required two-thirds majority by one vote to move on the states for ratification.

Health care reform

Hatch opposed President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; he voted against the Affordable Care Act in December 2009, and he voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.

C. Everett Koop on the day of his confirmation as Surgeon General (QQBBQB) noframe
Hatch with Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. C. Everett Koop (far right), Elizabeth Koop (left), and HHS Secretary Richard Schweiker (right) (November 16, 1981)

In 2003, Hatch supported the Medicare prescription drug benefit plan known as Medicare Part D.

On March 25, 2014, Hatch cosponsored the Emergency Medical Services for Children Reauthorization Act of 2014 in the Senate. The bill that would amend the Public Health Service Act to reauthorize the Emergency Medical Services for Children Program through FY2019. The bill would authorize appropriations of about $20 million in 2015 and $101 million over the 2015–2019 period. Hatch argued that "children require specialized medical care, and that specialized care comes with unique challenges. The EMSC program helps ensure that some of our country's most vulnerable have access to the care they need, and I've been proud to support it all these years."


Hatch was one of the architects and advocates of the expansion of H-1B visas and has generally been an advocate of tougher enforcement immigration policy including voting for 1,500 new law enforcement agents to patrol the United States' borders. His 2010 Immigration Bill titled Strengthening Our Commitment to Legal Immigration and America's Security Act has received the support of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). He also proposed the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants, who were children when their parents came to the United States.

Hatch critiqued President Donald Trump's 2017 executive order to temporarily suspend immigration from seven Muslim countries until better screening methods are devised. He reflected on his own family's immigration history and described the order as placing "unnecessary burdens" on families.

Intellectual property

Hatch was long a proponent of expanding intellectual property rights and in 1997 introduced the Senate version of the Copyright Term Extension Act. Hatch believed that intellectual property laws should, in general, more closely mirror real property laws, and offer greater protections to authors and creators.

LGBT rights

In April 2013, Hatch stated that he viewed same-sex marriage as "undermining the very basis of marital law", but declined to support a Federal Marriage Amendment and endorsed same-sex couples' right to form a civil union, stating that the law should "give gay people the same rights as married people". Later that same year, Hatch voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Nuclear testing

Sen. Hatch and Rep. Owens
Hatch holds a press conference with Representative Wayne Owens in March 1989 as part of their successful charge to win passage of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA).

During Hatch's first year in the Senate in 1977, reporter Gordon Eliot White of the Deseret News published the first of what would be a lengthy series of articles detailing government malfeasance in atmospheric testing of nuclear bombs at the Nevada Test Site. Over the next 13 years White's articles detailed how the government determined to proceed with the tests, and with mining and refining, without adequate safeguards for innocent citizens whose health would be damaged. Though Hatch feared an investigation would endanger the nation's nuclear deterrence versus the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, by 1979 he was pushing for hearings on the issue before the Senate Labor Committee. Hatch prevailed on Committee Chairman Ted Kennedy to hold field hearings in Utah in 1980. At the end of 1980, Hatch was positioned to chair the committee himself.

By 1984, Hatch had held a dozen hearings, passed legislation requiring scientific investigation of the injuries, and enlisted the aid of the National Science Foundation and National Cancer Institute, but still could not muster the votes to get a bill passed. When a vote was obtained in the Senate in 1985 (as an amendment to a bill to compensate affected Pacific Islanders for nuclear tests in the 1950s), it failed by a handful of votes. Hatch discovered a clause in the proposed Treaty of Peace and Friendship with Kiribati and Tuvalu to pay at least $100 million to residents of the Marshall Islands for injuries similar to those of Utahns, and Hatch took the treaty hostage. His hold on consideration of the treaty eventually got agreement from the Reagan administration to agree not to oppose radiation compensation for Utah citizens, but it still took another five years to get the bill through. The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990 provided compensation for citizens injured by radioactive fallout from the tests.

In December 2010, Hatch was one of twenty-six senators who voted against the ratification of New Start, a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russian Federation obliging both countries to have no more than 1,550 strategic warheads as well as 700 launchers deployed during the next seven years along with providing a continuation of on-site inspections that halted when START I expired the previous year. It was the first arms treaty with Russia in eight years.

Religious freedom

Hatch was the main author of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which protected all religions' right to build church facilities on private property. In 2010, Hatch defended the right of a private organization to build a mosque on private property in downtown Manhattan, citing this law and defense of the freedom of religion.

Presidential Medal of Freedom

President Donald J. Trump Presents Medal of Freedom to Orrin Hatch - 45863433652
President Trump presenting the Medal of Freedom to Hatch

On November 16, 2018, President Donald Trump awarded Hatch the highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Other issues

In 1999, Hatch called for a federal probe into manufacturers of violent video games, and proposed making the existing voluntary rating system for video games (ESRB) mandatory by federal law.

Hatch pushed legislation for the Equal Opportunity to Govern Amendment, which would amend Article 2, Section I, Clause 5 of the United States Constitution. This amendment would allow anyone who has been a U.S. citizen for twenty years to seek the presidency or vice-presidency.

Personal life

Hatch married Elaine Hansen on August 28, 1957. They had six children.

Hatch was a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Although he was born in Pennsylvania, his parents had been raised in Utah and he had ancestors who were members of the LDS Church in Nauvoo, Illinois. Hatch served as an Latter-day Saint missionary in what was called the "Great Lakes States Mission" essentially covering large parts of Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. Hatch later served in various positions in the church, including as a bishop.

Hatch was a founder and co-chair of the Federalist Society, an organization of conservative lawyers.

Hatch served as a member of the board of directors of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. In a 1996 interview on 60 Minutes, Hatch said he wears a mezuzah necklace in order to remind himself that another Holocaust should never be allowed to occur.

Despite their political differences, Hatch was a longtime friend of fellow senator Ted Kennedy, spoke at his memorial service in 2009, and publicly suggested Kennedy's widow, Victoria Reggie, as a replacement for Kennedy in the Senate.


Hatch died in Salt Lake City on April 23, 2022, aged 88, from complications of a stroke he had the week prior. He was buried in Newton.

Musical career and film appearances

Hatch played the piano, violin, and organ. Fueled by his interest in poetry, Hatch composed songs for many artists. One of his songs, "Unspoken", went platinum after appearing on WOW Hits 2005, a compilation of Christian pop music. He co-authored "Everything And More", sung by Billy Gilman. In addition to serving as a United States senator, Hatch earned over $10,000 as an LDS musical recording artist.

Rock musician Frank Zappa composed a guitar instrumental entitled "Orrin Hatch On Skis", which appears on his 1988 album, Guitar.

In March 1997, Hatch and Janice Kapp Perry jointly recorded an album with Tree Music entitled My God Is Love. Hatch's later albums with Perry included "Come to the Manger".

Hatch appeared as himself, alongside Chuck Grassley, in Steven Soderbergh's 2000 Oscar-winning drama Traffic, in a brief cameo in a scene set during a Washington, D.C. cocktail party. Soderbergh later featured one of Hatch's songs, "Souls Along The Way," in his film Ocean's 12 as background music for a scene in Hatch's home state of Utah.

Hatch and Janice Kapp Perry co-wrote the song "Heal Our Land", which was performed at George W. Bush's January 2005 inauguration.

Hatch, along with Lowell Alexander and Phil Naish, composed the 2006 song "Blades Of Grass And Pure White Stones".

Hatch's likeness was featured in the 30 Rock episode "Jack Gets in the Game", aired in 2007, as one of Dr. Leo Spaceman's famous clients.

In 2009, at the request of The Atlantic correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg, Hatch authored the lyrics to "Eight Days of Hanukkah", described by Goldberg as "a hip hop Hannukah song written by the senior senator from Utah."

Hatch appeared in a 2015 scene in the Parks and Recreation episode "Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer Goes to Washington" alongside Cory Booker.


  • Orrin Hatch, The Equal Rights Amendment: Myths and Realities, Savant Press (1983)
  • Orrin Hatch, Higher Laws: Understanding the Doctrines of Christ , Shadow Mountain (1995) ISBN: 978-0-87579-896-7
  • Orrin Hatch, Square Peg: Confessions of a Citizen Senator, Basic Books (2002) ISBN: 978-0-465-02867-2
  • Orrin Hatch, Orrin Hatch, the L.D.S. Mormon Politician as Songwriter, text of an interview of Orrin Hatch by Phillip K. Bimstein, in Washington, D.C., August 14, 2003, transcribed by Jonathan Murphy, New York City, American Music Center, 2003, without ISBN.


Hatch had been awarded the following:

  • Order of the Star of Romania - Ribbon bar.svg Commander of the Order of the Star of Romania, Romania (June 8, 2017)
  • Order of Prince Branimir.jpg Order of Duke Branimir, Republic of Croatia (October 29, 2018)
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom (ribbon).svg Presidential Medal of Freedom (November 16, 2018)
  • Secretary of the Air Force Distinguished Public Service Award (December 11, 2018)

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