WASHINGTON D.C. — Tomorrow morning, Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, will be giving his farewell address from the Senate floor. Some legal experts say no senator has had a bigger role in forming the Supreme Court than he has.
Hatch was present for the nomination and confirmation for every justice sitting on the high court, today.
“I don’t think anyone has been as impactful as Senator Hatch on the current Supreme Court,” says former federal judge, Paul Cassell.
Presidents have been coming to Senator Hatch for decades, Cassell says, asking for his advice and recommendations about who should be considered for a seat on the highest court of the land.
“Even if they don’t agree with him politically, if he felt that [the judge] interpret the constitution in a neutral manner, he would vote for them,” Cassell says.
Hatch had even been recommending Judge Merrick Garland for several years, even though he ended up voting to not move that vote forward in 2016.
“He just wasn’t a big fan of an outgoing president having the opportunity to put a nominee on the Supreme Court. There, Senator Hatch was like other senators. Senator [Joe] Biden said the same in the waning days of the President Bush’s administration,” Cassell adds.
He believes some of the justices who had the roughest road to confirmation only made it through with Hatch’s support.
“He was a big cheerleader for Justice [Clarence] Thomas who had a very closely divided vote. Senator Hatch helped to draw a little more support for Justice Thomas than he otherwise would have,” Cassell says.
There was a time when Hatch was close to being named as a Supreme Court justice, himself. In 1987, Cassell says President Ronald Reagan had a short list of names of people being considered as the next nominee. Hatch was one of those names. However, Cassell says Hatch made one specific vote that made him ineligible.
Cassell says, “Under the Constitution, you can’t go onto the Supreme Court if you voted for a pay raise in that position as a senator, which Senator Hatch had done.”
That nomination eventually went to Judge Robert Bork, who was rejected by the Senate.