Senate love fest showers Hatch with praise on Valentine's Day

Politics • Democrat Patrick Leahy urges Hatch to enjoy it while it lasts.
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Washington • A Democrat praising a Republican? And a Republican returning the favor?

It seems an impossible feat these days in polarized Washington, but a short, bipartisan love fest emerged Thursday — Valentine's Day, of course — as Senate Judiciary Committee members heralded Sen. Orrin Hatch as the longest-serving Republican in the panel's history.

"The committee started in the 1800s and he was the first Republican," joked Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

In actuality, the Utah Republican has served 36 years on the committee, including eight years as chairman and many more stints as the GOP's top member.

"I like every year that I've been here. You're all friends," Hatch said, noting that at times it's been contentious but still wonderful. "I resent having all this gray hair this committee has brought on me."

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., spoke of how much he respected and appreciated Hatch's leadership. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, confessed Hatch's work on the committee inspired Lee to join it.

"I look up to you physically and intellectually," added Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican who stands several inches shorter than Hatch.

"I've listened to his music; I've listened to his speeches. I like the music," Leahy noted that he "often" likes the speeches, too.

Hatch remains the longest-serving Republican in the Senate.