Senator Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) offered an ominous warning about the future of the Senate as an institution during his farewell speech on Wednesday.
“The Senate as an institution is in crisis,” Hatch said on the Senate floor. “The committee process lies in shambles. Regular order is a relic of the past. And compromise, once the guiding credo of this great institution, is now synonymous with surrender.”
“Things weren’t always as they are now,” he continued. “I was here when this body was at its best. I was here when the regular order was the norm, when legislation was debated in committee, and when members worked constructively with one another for the good of the country.”
The 84-year-old Hatch was first elected to the Senate in 1977, and will leave the upper chamber as the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history. He announced his retirement in January. Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the November election to assume his seat.
The current Senate Finance Committee chairman said the culture in the Senate has shifted for the worse with a “loss of comity” and “congeniality” among political opponents. He recalled his friendship with the late Senator Ted Kennedy, with whom he disagreed but worked together on several large pieces of legislation.
“My heart is heavy because it aches for the times when we actually lived up to our reputation as the world’s greatest deliberative body,” Hatch said in his speech. “It longs for the days in which Democrats and Republicans would meet on middle ground rather than retreat to partisan trenches.”
“Unless we take meaningful steps to restore civility, the culture wars will push us ever closer toward national divorce,” he warned. “Without civility, there is no civilization. . . . If we abandon civility then our constituents will follow.”