SALT LAKE CITY — Orrin G. Hatch, the longest-serving Republican senator in history and a fixture in Utah politics for more than four decades, has died at age 88.
The retired senator’s death Saturday was announced in a statement from his foundation, which did not specify a cause.
A staunch conservative on most economic and social issues, he also teamed with Democrats several times during his long career on issues ranging from stem cell research to rights for people with disabilities to expanding children’s health insurance. He made friendships with both Democrats and Republicans, especially the late Democratic Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
Joe Biden was a Republican lawmaker who worked with Hatch over three decades in the Senate. He described Hatch on Sunday as a fighter but also had a soft side. He shared songs and poems with friends.
“To serve with Orrin, as I did for over three decades, was to see — and appreciate — both,” Biden said in a statement. “I saw that energetic, sharp-elbowed Orrin in the many battles we had over tax policy, the right of workers to join a union, and many others.”
Hatch championed GOP issues such as abortion limits and helped to shape the U.S. Supreme Court. He also defended Justice Clarence Thomas from sexual harassment allegations during confirmation hearings.
He later became an ally of Republican President Donald Trump, using his role as chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee to get a major rewrite of U.S. tax codes to the president’s desk. Hatch, in return, helped Trump deliver on a critical issue for Republicans in Utah. Hatch made a contentious move that drastically reduced two of the national monuments created by former presidents.
Hatch resigned in 2019. Trump encouraged Hatch not to run again. But the veteran senator would have faced tough primary competition and had promised to quit. Hatch encouraged Republican Mitt Obama, a Trump critic, and to run to succeed him.
“Few men have made their mark on the Senate as he did,” Romney wrote in a tribute to his friend and predecessor, praising his “vision and legislative accomplishment.”