Last Wednesday Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) verbally polished his “fiscal conservative” spectacles for the benefit of non-believers in Utah who are threatening to support opposition to his run for re-election to his seventh term in 2012. He told the Senate Finance Committee that if fiscal reforms “fall prey to gimmicks, are waived or otherwise undermined…my sense is that the people will come to this Capitol with pitchforks and torches they will be so upset. And they’d be right to do so.”
This time must be different. This time we must make meaningful and lasting reforms. We must make the fundamental changes to our spending programs that might be tough today, but that will make maintenance of budget discipline easier in the future.
The fact is, we can’t be having this debate again in another 5 years. We are already nearing a point where it is too late to enact the changes that the markets demand. And failure to act now will have a lasting detrimental impact on families, businesses, and the economy.
No matter what happens with the debt ceiling, we need to make sure that Congress and the President stick to the fiscal reforms attached to [any debt ceiling] legislation. Both parties must accept responsibility, buckle down, and make the tough decisions, even when it hurts.
Not once did Hatch mention the Constitution, the limitations placed on the government by that revered document, nor his past votes in contravention of it. That’s Hatch’s biggest problem: his sweet words turn sour when heard in the light of his past support of big government, weak immigration laws, and, most especially, his support for TARP (the Troubled Assets Relief Program). He tried to explain away his support for this completely unconstitutional legislation during his presentation at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. He was put into an especially delicate position as he followed his potential challenger, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), to the podium. Once again he had the opportunity to use words to paper over his actions, and it didn’t work.
I’m prepared to be the most hated man in this Godforsaken city in order to save this country. And I need your help. I intend to get re-elected in 2012. I guarantee to you that I’ll do everything in my power to get this mess under control.
But during the question and answer session following his speech, he was challenged on his vote for TARP. He responded in a way that reflected his 34 years in the Senate—that he knows best what’s good for the country, even if it violates the Constitution:
You may disagree, but you’re not sitting there having to make these decisions. I probably made a mistake voting for it [but] at the time we were in real trouble and it looked like we were ready for a depression. [Without TARP] I believe we would have gone into a depression.
Without the lodestar of the Constitution to guide him, Hatch has a long history of supporting extra-legal big government programs, including, but certainly not limited to, the Children’s Health Care Quality Act (to “improve the quality, performance, and delivery of pediatric care”) the Children’s Health Insurance Program (co-sponsored with Senator Ted Kennedy [D-Mass.]), requesting more than $1.2 billion in earmarks for Utah in 2010 alone, the “Helping Families Save Their Homes” Act, and the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act in 2005.
He also stumbled with his support of Senate Bill 3963, otherwise known as the DREAM Act which, according to Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was simply a back door effort to grant amnesty to illegal aliens.
In addition, Hatch has supported a Balanced Budget Amendment which, if passed and ratified, would require that total spending of the federal government for any fiscal year could not exceed total receipts. The deceptive nature of such an amendment is exposed simply by asking, what if revenues are not high enough to cover “total spending?” What then? Well, the obvious answer is to raise taxes.
Constitutionalists object to such a measure by declaring that the present Constitution, if it were followed, already has built in all the limitations needed to allow for a balanced budget, and at a much lower level of government spending. But these arguments seem to be lost on the senator, who has arguably lost his bearing when it comes to constitutional constraints and limitations. He has sponsored or co-sponsored a balanced budget amendment 17 times!
If enough citizens become informed enough about Hatch’s real voting record, and upset enough to march on the Capitol with “pitchforks and torches,” one of those being sought will no doubt be the senior senator from Utah.