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Utah Senator Orrin Hatch on his potential primary challenge

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

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HH: Joined now by United States Senator Orrin Hatch. Senator Hatch, how long have you been married?

OH: Let’s see. We’ve been married, it will be 54 years in August.

HH: Oh, my gosh. I’m a piker. I’m 25 years behind you. Congratulations.

OH: (laughing) Well, you’re a young fellow. But I’m young, too. My gosh, we just married very young.

HH: That’s wonderful. I want to talk today, you’ve never avoided a challenge, and Josh Chaffetz is out there telling Politico this week he’s thinking about running against you. I’ve always thought you were a conservative’s conservative. So it’s going to be an interesting choice of issues. What do you make of the young Congressman’s intentions?

OH: Well, he’s been running since the day he got elected to Congress (laughing). I mean, you know, he just, I don’t know. I think he enjoys getting the publicity that happens.

HH: Well now, he ticked off to Politico a list of things on which he alleges differences with you. I’d be curious about your response. First of all, he says the debt ceiling, what’s your position on the debt ceiling?

OH: Well, I’m against the debt ceiling. I’m against lifting it off, because the only way I would ever vote for lifting that debt ceiling is if we have significant, significant reductions in spending. And I’m certainly not for any tax increases.

HH: I thought that was the case. He also mentions your positions on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Again, I don’t know of…

OH: Well, I’ve been against them. I think that they were very poorly run, and I said that we should correct and reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We should have corrected them years before they went bankrupt. And I’ve been the prime sponsor of the balanced budget Constitutional amendment. I’m the one that’s brought it to the floor every time so far. And the last time, we had 67 votes, and then John Heinz flipped on us at the last minute because the unions threatened him, and we lost by one vote. And can you imagine in ’97 if we would have passed that…

HH: Right.

OH: …where we’d be today? We wouldn’t be in the colossal mess we’re in today. Plus, back then, that, just the debate on that amendment was what helped get us to the first balanced budget in over 40 years. So it was pretty important stuff. So anybody who says I’m no fiscal conservative is, I don’t want to be rude, but they’re lying.

HH: Now he also, he brings up the TARP. Now the TARP has been defended in this studio by a number of great conservatives, and I’ve heard it defended by President Bush in the Oval Office as being the only thing that stopped the financial collapse of the United States, the freezing of the monetary system. Do you regret that vote now in favor of TARP?

OH: Well, let me put it to you this way. Back before on your prior question, John McCain and I, we had legislation, and have legislation to get Fannie and Freddie off the government dole. So I’ve always been on that side. Now with regard to TARP, yeah, I think I made a mistake there. Frankly, I didn’t like the doggone bill to begin with, but I knew one thing, that if it didn’t pass, we’d likely be heading for not a recession, but a depression, because you wouldn’t have had anything being done from October to November, December, January, February and March, probably March, and this country wouldn’t have stood for that. I think we’d have had a major depression. So you know, if it had taken my vote to make the 51st vote, I probably would have voted for it, even though I didn’t like the bill as it was written, and it wasn’t implemented as it was written, which really bothered me. So yeah, I think that was probably a mistake. On the other hand, if it would have taken my vote at that time to make the 51st vote, I probably would have done it, because I know we were headed straight to a depression.

HH: It mentions No Child Left Behind as well. President Bush recently in Dallas made a vigorous defense of No Child Left Behind, and I think it works better than no standards. What’s your response to Congressman Chaffetz on No Child Left Behind?

OH: Well, you know, it’s easy to criticize, but you know, back then, that was President Bush’s signature bill. And I wasn’t going to let him down, and I also saw that there were some good aspects to that that basically would help kids that have been stuck in poverty, and stuck with poor teachers, and with poor instruction. And I think it’s been less than a tremendous success, but it also has its successes as well. We have at least two counties in Utah that are pretty happy with No Child Left Behind. The rest of them are not very happy, so you know, it’s sixes. But anytime it comes to children’s programs that might help our children, I’m for them. But I agree with any criticism that the federal government should have no role in elementary and secondary education in the states. It should have no role.

HH: Now last question of what Congressman Chaffetz brought up. He brought up the immigration bill and the DREAM Act. And this has been a problem, you’ve been there long enough to have been there when Ronald Reagan proposed the 1986 amnesty, through the debates about immigration the last five years. What does Orrin Hatch say in 2012 as you look at reelection?

OH: Well, I voted against that amnesty bill. That was the Simpson-Mazzoli bill?

HH: Yup.

OH: And I stood on the floor and said look, at least they were honest, at least they called it amnesty, and I stood on the floor and I said if you do this, and you grant amnesty to almost three million people, you’d have millions more come into this country. Guess who won that debate in the end? So I voted against it. With regard to the DREAM Act, the original DREAM Act that I helped to write was to help these kids that were brought into the country through no fault of their own, who go all the way through school, live good lives, and do things that are right, and then can’t even get a job. And it wasn’t, it was not an amnesty bill. What has since transpired is an amnesty bill that’s very broad, that I have voted against every time.

HH: Do you think you’ll beat him if he decides to run against you, Senator?

OH: Well, let’s put it this way. I intend to win, and we will win.

HH: Are you starting to raise money already?

OH: Oh, yeah. No, no, I’ve never quit. You know, the last four years, I’ve raised money for my colleagues, and I’ve given money to my colleagues, a lot of money to my colleagues. And I’m vice chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. But you know, I don’t understand him. I think he could possibly be a halfway decent Congressman in the House if he would concentrate on it. But he’s been running for Senate from day one. And others say that he also has said that he might want to run for governor, and one person even said well, he’s even talked about running for president. Well, I don’t know, more power to him, but I don’t believe in running against a fellow Republican. When I ran back in 1976, it was against one of the leading liberals in the Senate who was a Democrat. And I would never run against a Republican. But you know…

HH: What’s the website for the campaign, Senator?

OH: What’s the website for the campaign?

HH: Yeah, is it www.orrinhatch.com? I’m not sure.

OH: I think so. I’ve never gone to it, so I don’t, I’m not sure what the website to the campaign is.

HH: All right, I want to close by talking policy with you, not politics.

OH: Sure.

HH: The United States Senate the other day decided not to conform Gordon Liu. The Republicans filibustered him.

OH: Right.

HH: 9th circuit. I’ve never been a fan of the filibuster. What do you think about its exercise in that instance?

OH: Well, I’ve written a law review article on the filibuster, and on filibustering judges, and I don’t believe you should filibuster judges. On the other hand, I couldn’t vote for Gordon Liu. I mean, this fellow is off the charts. He’s brilliant, he’s a very attractive personality, I like him personally, but my gosh, he believes the Constitutional can be amended at will. I mean, if you read his comments and his remarks, he doesn’t believe that it’s a document that should be very difficult to amend, which it has been. We’ve only had 28 amendments over the years. And you know, you can’t put somebody on any federal court, and especially the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is out of whack to begin with, who basically said the courts can legislate from the bench. And that’s what he basically believes. It’s a sincere belief, but ought to sincerely stay with being a law professor where he can take those crazy attitudes and talk about them all he wants.

HH: 30 seconds then, Senator. Are you afraid that we are devolving to a 60 vote standard on every judge then?

OH: No, I’m not afraid at all. I think most, if you really put, if presidents really put up good people, those good people will get through. It’s when they start putting up these partisan people on both sides who really don’t understand what the law is, and that the law is not to be built by their own predilections. That’s when I think they should be stopped no matter who they are, Democrats or Republicans.

HH: Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah, always a pleasure. Thank you, Senator.

End of interview.

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