St. George • The lack of fiscal conservatives in the Senate, combined with a tax-and-spend administration were the points Sen. Orrin Hatch hammered away at Tuesday night at a town hall meeting in St. George.
About 300 people showed up at an auditorium on the campus of Dixie State University to grill the senator, mostly about the economic abyss the country is looking into and immigration issues.
Hatch said in the 34 years he has been in the Senate, he has "never known a fiscally conservative majority," noting there are always a handful of Republicans who cast a liberal vote on economic issues because they come of traditionally Democratic states.
He said the best hope for Utah and the country to undo the liberal policies of the Obama administration and get a handle on fiscal responsibility is to hope Mitt Romney is elected the next president and that Hatch wins a seventh term in the same 2012 general election.
Hatch also said that he is looking forward in January to become the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, which controls the purse strings in the Senate.
If he is not returned to the Senate, Hatch said, that position and others related to his seniority will be a loss for Utah.
He said he sympathized with the tea party members, but said the emotion to "Throw the bums out" could backfire because experience does matter in Washington, D.C.
"Tea party members I know by and large are good, honest, decent people, but out of anger should not disrupt the few GOP [candidates] who can win," he said.
He said the Republicans need to organize and pull together just as unions, environmentalists, personal injury lawyers and gay rights activists do for Democrat candidates.
"Gays and lesbians don't pay tithing; their religion is politics," said Hatch.
His answer on the flood of undocumented immigrants illegally entering the country is that any action has to follow a sequential order, starting with securing the border first and then working on an immigration reform bill.
He criticized the Obama administration for wanting one broad bill to deal with the issue. "Which is just amnesty," he said.
While being asked if he intends to vote against Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, Hatch said he has not decided, but promises to give her a fair hearing.
Responding to other questions concerning frustration over the power of an "activist" high court, Hatch said that he believes the Supreme Court, as bad as some of its decisions are, has done more to preserve the Constitution than the other two branches of government.
He also said that unless something is done to Social Security, many may see no benefits from the fund they have paid into most their lives.
One recommendation he suggested was raising the age when people can start collecting from the fund or offering benefits based on economic status of the beneficiary, even suggesting that wealthy people forgo collecting. He was quick to add that the latter suggestion probably would not pass congressional muster.
Kaye Green, who traveled from neighboring town of Santa Clara, thought half Hatch's meeting sounded like a campaign pitch.
"It's frustrating," she said. "We have to do something."