WASHINGTON — Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the longest-serving Republican in the Senate and an influential member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on Tuesday that he plans to retire at the end of his term.
“Every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves, and to me that time is soon approaching,” Hatch said in a video announcement. The 83-year-old said he looks forward to spending more time with his family.
His retirement raises speculation that Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and 2012 GOP presidential nominee, will seek the seat. President Donald Trump had urged Hatch to run again, but Hatch said in his last campaign that this would be his final term.
Romney, who at times has been a Trump critic, would probably enter the race as the front runner, given his own popularity in the state. He led the Olympic organizing committee in Salt Lake City in 2002, and has a home there.
As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Hatch played a pivotal role in passage of a massive tax reform bill last month. He served as chairman or ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 1990s and early 2000s, a position in which he had influence over issues of copyright and piracy, and was a visible figure during Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
Hatch was first elected to the Senate in 1976. He also is president pro tempore of the Senate, which is in the presidential line of succession.
In a statement, Romney said that he joins “the people of Utah in thanking my friend, Senator Orrin Hatch for his more than forty years of service to our great state and nation. As Chairman of the Senate Finance and Judiciary Committees and as the longest-serving Republican Senator in U.S. history, Senator Hatch has represented the interests of Utah with distinction and honor.”