WASHINGTON D.C. – It’s a farewell speech 42 years in the making. Orrin Hatch, the longest serving Republican senator in U.S. history, is saying goodbye on the Senate floor today.
The very first bill Orrin Hatch put forward happened in 1978. It was called the Sunset Act, and according to the Library of Congress, it made it so lawmakers had to reauthorize their federal programs’ budgets every ten years.
In later years, he pushed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is one of the most famous pieces of legislation he has been attached to. Some of the lesser known bills include the Orphan Drug Act. Hinckley Institute of Politics Director Jason Perry says it created more incentives for drug companies to research medications that would only impact a small percentage of people.
“Because profit margins are so small, drug companies don’t spend a lot of time on them. So, the Orphan Drug Act helps provide incentives for these companies to make sure that, even if it’s for a small segment [of people] there is an opportunity for them.”
Just this year, Hatch’s bill to create a three-digit suicide prevention phone number was signed by President Trump.
However, Perry suspects that if you were to ask Hatch which bill he’s most proud of, it would likely be the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
“It prohibits substantial government burdens on the exercise of religion. Really, it was trying to create that separation, letting people live and work in accordance to their own beliefs,” Perry says.
If you were to look up Hatch’s record in the Library of Congress, hundreds of bills are attached to his name. Perry believes Hatch was able to get a lot of those bills passed largely due to an unlikely friendship with Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. He says lawmakers who want to work across the political aisle are a dying breed.
“There’s no credit attached to reaching across the aisle. I think that might change, a little bit, now that the House has flipped,” Perry says. “Republicans and Democrats are going to have to get along, at least on some pieces of legislation.”
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