Orrin Hatch: Senator Reaches Out to Democrats

He is one of America's Best Leaders for finding common ground while passing legislation.

By + More

Through word and deed, Sen. Orrin Hatch has demonstrated that a member of Congress can work to pass meaningful, bipartisan legislation without compromising his core principles and strongly held ideological convictions.

Indeed, no one would ever accuse Senator Hatch of being a liberal. He is, by all accounts, a true and proud conservative. What sets him apart and makes him an effective legislator is his willingness to find common ground with Democratic counterparts when he believes it is the right thing to do—even when it isn't the politically convenient thing to do.

It is common knowledge that Senator Hatch had a good working relationship and friendship with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. The two made an unlikely tandem, but they teamed up to pass a number of landmark pieces of legislation, particularly in the area of healthcare. I served alongside Senator Hatch for 33 years. We hailed from different parties, different parts of the country, and different ideological traditions. But in those 33 years, he and I also shared more than a few legislative victories.

Over the years, we worked on a number of laws designed to make Americans safer. For example, in 1994, he cosponsored my proudest legislative achievement, the Violence Against Women Act. VAWA created some of our most successful federal programs aimed at reducing domestic violence and providing assistance to community shelters that aid victims of such violence.

Party and principle. That bill and others we worked on together passed through Congress with broad, bipartisan support. This was due, in good measure, to Senator Hatch's ability to recognize common goals among his colleagues and his unwillingness to put party ahead of principle. He knew then, as he knows now, that when it comes to protecting the Ameri-can people, particularly the weakest among us, no lines should be drawn between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. When other Republicans saw that Senator Hatch was on board, they were more inclined to give their support. In many cases, he was able to persuade even some his most conservative colleagues to join him.

This is not to say that Senator Hatch and I were frequently in agreement. In fact, far more often than not, the opposite was true. But even in those circumstances when partisan divides were the widest, he didn't make his disagreements personal. And while he didn't always have many Democratic allies, he had even fewer Democratic enemies.

Continuing in this tradition, Senator Hatch worked with the Obama administration and Senator Kennedy to enact the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, legislation that will greatly expand opportunities for public service. The bill passed overwhelmingly in the true Kennedy-Hatch fashion, with both Democrats and Republicans on board.

It was another lesson in bipartisanship that politicians of all stripes, from staunch conservatives to committed liberals, can learn from Orrin Hatch.

Joseph Biden is the vice president of the United States.