Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving Republican senator in history who was a fixture in Utah politics for more than four decades, died Saturday at age 88.
His death 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 partnered with Democrats several times during his long career on issues ranging from stem cell research to the rights of people with disabilities to expanding health insurance for kids. He also formed friendships across the aisle, particularly with the late Edward Kennedy.
Hatch also championed Republican issues like limits on abortion and helped shape the US Supreme Court, including defending Justice Clarence Thomas against allegations of sexual harassment during confirmation hearings.
He later became an ally of Donald Trump, using his role as chairman of the powerful Senate finance committee to get a major rewrite of the US tax codes to the president’s desk. In return, Trump helped Hatch deliver on a key issue for Republicans in Utah with a controversial move to slash the size of two national monuments that had been declared by previous presidents.
Hatch retired in 2019 and was noted for her side career as a singer and recording artist for music themed around her religious faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He is survived by his wife, Elaine, and their six children.
One issue Hatch returned to throughout his career was limiting or banning abortion, a position that put him at the center of one of the nation’s most controversial issues. He was the author of a variety of “Hatch amendments” to the Constitution intended to decrease the availability of abortions.
In 1991, he became known as one of Thomas’s most vocal defenders against sexual harassment allegations by law professor Anita Hill. Hatch read “The Exorcist” aloud at confirmation hearings and suggested that Hill stole details from the book.
Hatch also helped push through legislation that tightens child pornography laws and makes illegal downloading of music a prosecutable offense.
For Hatch, the music download problem was personal. A member of the faith widely known as Mormons, she often wrote religious songs and recorded music in her spare time as a way to unwind from the stress of life in Washington. Hatch earned around $39,000 in royalties from her songs in 2005.
One of his songs, “Unspoken,” went platinum after being featured on “WOW Hits 2005,” a Christian pop music compilation.
Unafraid to fight politically, he said he always made a point of quickly befriending those with whom he had arguments. Hatch was used to playing hardball: He learned to box as a kid in Pittsburgh to fend off attacks from older and bigger students.
When Hatch announced that he would not seek re-election in 2018, he said that “every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves.”
After moving to Utah in the early 1970s, Hatch, a former bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ran for his first public office in 1976, narrowly defeating Democratic Sen. Frank Moss.
In 1982, he held off challenger Ted Wilson, the Democratic mayor of Salt Lake City, to win a second term by a solid margin.
He was never seriously challenged again.