The Rich Legacy Orrin Hatch Will Leave in the Senate

Washington, D.C. is filled to the brim with skilled politicians and bright people. What it has in short supply are people who possess those characteristics and who also are wonderful human beings.

Orrin Grant Hatch, the senior United States senator from Utah and president pro tempore of the Senate, is one of that very small number of people.

On Tuesday, he announced that he will retire from the Senate when his current term ends a year from now. When that happens, the Senate will lose one of its historic figures.

Hatch has a reputation for believing in the importance of our Constitution, including its limitations. That is no mean feat in modern-day politics.

People generally don’t care what the Constitution says. People want the federal government to make their lives not just secure, but easy, free from any obstacle that could interfere with their personal happiness.

The American public has come to demand that the government solve every problem that life throws their way, regardless of whether the federal government has the legal authority to do so.

“Who cares what the Constitution says? I’ve got a problem, and the federal government should fix it. Besides, every other member of Congress has promised to fix it. Constitution, smonstitution. Just fix the problem, legality be damned!”

The truth is different. No government can solve every problem and make life nothing but strawberries and cream. Any Congress that tried would only leave matters worse.

Like the Framers, Hatch knew that. And like the Framers, he feared the type of arrogant, omnipotent polity that we have come to take for granted.

Why? A government that tries to solve every problem won’t do everything well and will create more problems than it can solve. The Framers knew that 200-plus years ago, and Hatch has known that since he first assumed office in 1977.

Hatch had the good fortune to be in the Senate in 1981, when Ronald Reagan became president. In that position, Hatch was able to play the lead role in shepherding through the advice-and-consent process and onto the bench judges—like Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia—who made landmark changes to the proper methodology of constitutional analysis.

No longer was the text of the Constitution merely an opinion, a guide, or mere advice. No longer could a judge take or leave it when the text didn’t support the result that the judge wanted.

Hatch believed that the text was “law” in every sense that mattered. Though he did not serve on the Supreme Court, he helped Reagan and both Presidents Bush appoint judges who had the same view of constitutional law that he held.

Does that mean he does not realize the hardships that can befall people? Far from it.

Hatch wasn’t rich. His father was a metal lather. He grew up in a home without indoor plumbing. He had eight brothers and sisters—two did not survive infancy, and one died in combat in World War II.

He had his share of adversity, and no one who ever knew him could honestly say he was not moved by the suffering of others. He was—he just didn’t believe that public life should be just another version of The Oprah Winfree Show or Dr. Phil.

I will confess that I am prejudiced. I worked for Hatch in the 1990s when he was the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. I had the opportunity to know him in a way that only those people who worked closely with him could hope to learn.

Many staffers for other senators do not have the same experience that I did. But that is because Orrin Hatch is a special person.

I came away from that experience with three conclusions that have stayed with me to this day. America has been a better place because he has dedicated his life to public service; the Congress has been a better institution because he has been a part of it; and everyone who has had the privilege of working for him is a better person because we were able to know someone who is one of God’s greatest gifts to us all.

Come January 2019, Hatch will leave the Senate so that someone else can serve as a U.S. senator from Utah. When he does, he will leave big shoes to fill.

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Podcast: The Effects of Roy Moore’s Loss

What does losing a Republican in the Senate mean? How liberal is Doug Jones, the Democrat who did win in Alabama last night? What about the long-term implications for the GOP, given the sexual misconduct allegations Roy Moore faced? We discuss. Plus: the House and Senate have agreed to a tax deal (and you might see the effects in February), and the outrageously biased texts of an FBI agent formerly involved in the Russia-Trump investigation.

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In Upset, Doug Jones Defeats Roy Moore in Alabama

Democrat Democrat Doug Jones beat Republican Roy Moore in Tuesday’s special election in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race.  

Prior to the allegations of sexual misconduct Moore faced, the state was seen as an almost sure win for a Republican candidate. President Donald Trump won Alabama by almost 28 percentage points in 2016 and there has not been a Democrat senator in 25 years representing the solidly red state.

With 93 percent of the precincts reporting, Jones had 49.6 percent of the vote or 602,515 votes, while Moore had 48.8 percent or 592,729 votes, according to the New York Times.

A Jones win will hurt the conservative agenda, Brian Darling, a former staffer for Sen. Rand Paul, said in an email to The Daily Signal.

“This development empowers the moderates in the Senate in a way that will halt progress on a free market conservative agenda,” Darling, president of Liberty Government Affairs, said. “It is sad that the Republican leadership has proven so incompetent in implementing an agenda promoting free markets, lower taxes and a limited government [and] that has now become even harder to pass.”

After Jones is sworn in, there will be 49 Democrat senators and 51 Republican senators.

Moore, 70, who ran on a conservative platform which included support for a border wall and repealing Obamacare, faced sexual misconduct allegations from at least nine women, “including claims he tried dating them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s,” according to CBS News.  

One woman, Leigh Corfman, accused Moore of inappropriately touching her when she was 14 years old and another, Beverly Young Nelson, alleged that Moore sexually assaulted her.

Moore denied the allegations.

“I did not know them,” Moore said in an interview Sunday with “The Voice of Alabama Politics.” “I had no encounter with them. I never molested anyone, and for them to say that, I don’t know why they’re saying it, but it’s not true.”

Jones, 63, is a lawyer and former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama appointed by President Bill Clinton. His campaign platform included support for Obamacare, while acknowledging that it “needs improvement,” and he supports abortion and LGBT rights.

He has also been critical of the Senate’s tax reform plan.

“I am troubled by tax breaks for the wealthy, which seem to be in this bill overloaded,” Jones said. “I’m troubled by what appears to be ultimately tax increases or no tax cuts to the middle class. I generally try to support cutting corporate taxes to try to get reinvestment back into this country.”

President Donald Trump, who had supported Sen. Luther Strange in the primary, backed Moore in the general election and recorded a robo call for his campaign.

“Democrat Jones is soft on crime, weak on immigration, supports abortion, he’s bad for our military and bad for our vets,” Trump said during the call. “We don’t want him, and he also, by the way, wants higher taxes. Roy Moore is the guy we need to pass our ‘Make America Great Again’ agenda. Roy is a conservative who’ll help me steer this country back on track after eight years of the Obama disaster.”

Trump tweeted about the results Tuesday night:

After the allegations against Moore surfaced, some Republicans in Congress, including Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Sen Ben Sasse, R-Neb. withdrew support for Moore.

Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also withdrew support.

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Moore would face an ethics investigation if elected.

“I had hoped earlier that he would withdraw as a candidate, and obviously it’s not going to happen,” McConnell said Dec. 5 of Moore. “if he were to be elected, he would immediately have an ethics committee case, and the committee would take a look at the situation and give us advice.”

Some Republicans, like Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said the Senate should expel Moore should he take office.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, said Nov. 17 she would vote for Moore, while Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, also Republican, announced this month he would not back Moore.

“We need to have a Republican in the United States Senate to vote on things like the Supreme Court justices, other appointments the Senate has to confirm and make major decisions,” Ivey said. “So that’s what I plan to do, vote for Republican nominee Roy Moore.”

“I’d rather see the Republican win, but I’d rather see a Republican write-in. I couldn’t vote for Roy Moore,” Shelby told CNN in an interview Sunday.

“I think, so many accusations, so many cuts, so many drip, drip, drip — when it got to the 14-year-old’s story, that was enough for me. I said I can’t vote for Roy Moore,” Shelby added.

The special election was held for the Senate seat vacated by Republican Jeff Sessions when he became attorney general in the Trump administration.

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Senate Should Follow House’s Lead in Nixing Special-Interest Loopholes

President Donald Trump is right. Washington is a swamp, infested with special-interest groups feverishly working to keep their place in the capital bog.

Our current tax code is the leading example of institutionalized privilege—bought and paid for by lobbyists.

The tax code is riddled with privileges—special deductions for manufacturing, credits for everything from research to energy production to child care, and exemptions for medical costs, commuter expenses, and commercial development.

Tax reform should eliminate all these tax subsidies, which would allow for lower tax rates for everyone and full expensing. The result would be a fairer and more pro-growth tax code.

The House version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would do a tremendous job of eliminating a large number of privileges in the tax code. The Senate proposal would also remove or limit several large subsidies, but would leave many existing loopholes targeted by the House intact.

As the conference committee works to reconcile the differences between the two versions of the bill, lawmakers should follow the House’s approach when considering which tax preferences to eliminate.

In the 10-year budget window, the House-proposed reforms include the repeal of almost $750 billion worth of tax carve-outs for both businesses and individuals. None of these were included in the Senate bill.

In the table below, each tax preference is listed with its estimated fiscal impact (where available) and whether or not each subsidy would be removed in the House and Senate tax plans.

Tax reform should eliminate as many subsidies as possible, and certainly not include any new or expanded special-interest handouts.

In addition to the reductions in subsidies included in the table, the House bill would expand three different energy credits: the energy investment credit, the residential energy efficient property credit, and the nuclear power credit. These three credits combined are valued at $36 billion over 10 years.

With a fiscal impact of $9 billion, the Senate bill would add a new credit to the tax code for employers who provide family and medical leave, and would expand the medical expense deduction—a health cost subsidy that the House tax plan would eliminate.

In addition to the tax preferences explicitly mentioned in the two tax reform bills, several other large preferences are left untouched.

The research and development tax credit and the low-income housing tax credit for corporations are valued at a combined $242 billion. The remaining deduction for up to $10,000 of individual property taxes is valued at $148 billion, the corporate deduction for state and local taxes is about $140 billion, and the exclusion for interest from municipal bonds clocks in at about $300 billion.

Many of these items are politically sensitive and are not included for elimination for political reasons. However, combined, the total value of the tax subsidies retained in the Senate version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is more than $1.5 trillion.

For those counting, that could equate to just shy of a 10 percent further reduction in individual tax rates—basically doubling the current individual tax cut in the Senate bill. It could also more than double the currently proposed corporate tax cut.

The conference committee should begin its work with the Senate-passed proposal because it improves on many of the House reforms. The committee should, however, defer to the House-passed bill when it comes to repealing special tax privileges.

The appropriate combination of the two versions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act can begin to drain the swamp and strengthen the pro-growth aspects of the legislation.

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