As he prepares to leave the U.S. Senate after 42 years in office, Orrin Hatch said Congress’ upper chamber “is in crisis” and called for more unity in politics.
“Since I first came to the Senate in 1978 — 1977, rather — the culture of this place has shifted fundamentally, and not for the better, in my opinion,” he said.
Hatch lamented that in recent years the Senate has abandoned compromise, process and regular order. He said the culture shift has trickled down to other areas of American society.
“If we are divided, then the nation is divided. If we abandon civility, then our constituents will follow. And so to mend the nation, we must first mend the Senate. We must restore the culture of comity, compromise and mutual respect that used to exist here and still does in come respects,” he said.
Hatch, who will be replaced by former presidential nominee Mitt Romney in January, called on members of Congress — and all Americans — to set aside partisanship and identity politics to embrace civility and unity. He decried “zero-sum politics,” which he said casts policy decisions as an “either-or fallacy.”
“Something has to give. The status quo cannot hold,” he said. “These are, or should be, the United States of America. While that name has always been more aspirational than descriptive, it at least gives us an ideal to strive for.”
The 84-year-old Republican said he is ending his career on a “crescendo of legislative activity,” but highlighted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 as one of the most important bills he championed. It was one of many pieces of legislation Hatch co-sponsored with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.
Hatch’s speech was followed by applause and tributes by several of his Senate colleagues, including Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.