This weekend brought the sad news that former senator Orrin G. Hatch passed away in Salt Lake City at age 88. Elected in 1976, Hatch served through 2018. The Utah Republican’s seven terms eventually elevated him to president pro tempore of the Senate, a post reserved for the most senior member of that chamber’s majority party. This put Hatch three heartbeats away from the presidency.
Hatch’s least momentous achievement might have been that he was among the first major conservative figures to believe in me. From freshman through junior years at Georgetown University, I interned for Senator Hatch. After class on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons between fall 1982 and spring 1985, I took a bus to Dupont Circle and then the Metro to Union Station, alighting and then hiking the short climb up Capitol Hill to our space in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
I worked for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, which Hatch chaired. This panel was, more or less, the GOP Senate’s bomb factory. The tamest issue with which we dealt was the Balanced Budget Amendment. From there, we addressed the then-still twitching Equal Rights Amendment, civil rights, gun control, school prayer, abortion, and more. I was proud to have helped Hatch organize, to our knowledge, the first-ever hearing on making English America’s official language. We also prepared Hatch for his hearings and votes on numerous judicial nominees.
Hatch and his staffers gave me genuine responsibility, from drafting constituent letters on major controversies to writing hearing questions and floor speeches for the senator on these and other vital matters. I also was asked to help develop as strong a case as possible against D.C. statehood, a topic that we laid to rest around 1984 — only to see it stir in its grave today.
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