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Washington • Utah's Sen. Orrin Hatch earned a new title, a security detail and a spot in the line of presidential succession on Tuesday as he became the Senate president pro tempore, a largely symbolic role but one spelled out in the Constitution.
Hatch, the most senior Republican, will serve as the stand-in for the president of the Senate, Vice President Joe Biden, who rarely makes visits to Capitol Hill. He also will sign legislation passed by the chamber.
Hatch, though, said he didn't feel any different after snapping a photo with Biden, even as two black suit-clad police officers with earpieces flanked the Utah senator.
"It's a real honor; there's no question about that," Hatch said. "It's not just ceremonial, it's a position of leadership and I feel very honored."
While the Senate's majority and minority leader spots aren't mentioned in the Constitution, Hatch's new job is. The position is given to the most senior member of the majority party, and with the GOP now running the Senate, Hatch earned the gig.
He's now third in line to be president, behind Biden and Speaker John Boehner, and he nabs a new office in the Capitol as well as more staffers and a round-the-clock security detail from Capitol Police officers.
I'm "afraid so," Hatch said when asked about his new bodyguards.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and the outgoing president pro tem, walked Hatch down the aisle in the Senate on Tuesday where Biden swore him into the new role.
"There's a lot of ceremonial things," Leahy later joked, "but he'll do a good job."
Hatch, now serving his seventh term after first being elected in 1976, doesn't have to preside over Senate sessions but he does assign more junior senators to the job. And he gets a $19,400 raise as a Senate leader.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said Hatch is a perfect fit for the job.
"There's nobody in the Senate who understands it better, the history and traditions of the Senate, than Orrin Hatch," Sessions said. "He's got respect throughout the body."