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Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch berated Democrats in January for acting "like idiots" in attempting to block President Donald Trump's Cabinet nominees. Now, the senator says he's "recommitting" to civility.
"I will be the first to admit to saying things over the course of my public service that I later came to regret," Hatch wrote Wednesday in an op-ed for Time magazine. "In the heat of an argument, it's easy to indulge in irresponsible rhetoric. But we must avoid this temptation."
The seven-term Republican senator suggested exchanging animosity for peace largely in response to the shooting at a congressional baseball practice two weeks ago that left five injured, including Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana. He lamented that now "political passions spill over into open violence."
It wasn't always like that, he said.
When he first took office in 1977, Hatch reported that the atmosphere was much more congenial among congressional colleagues.
"Some of my best friends were Democrats," he recalled. "One moment, we would be yelling at each other on the Senate floor; the next, we would be laughing together over family dinner. In those days, Republicans and Democrats locked horns often, but we also loved each other."
In the 40 years since he started, relationships have shifted into tense terrain and "something vital has been lost." Hatch said he's not sure what caused the dramatic change he did call his opponents "straight old dumbass liberals" in 2014 but he hopes the United States will not continue down that path.
"We now struggle to see the common humanity in the other side, and we increasingly treat each other as opponents rather than friends," the senator added.
The answer? Speak responsibly, Hatch suggested. Be mindful of media consumption and interact with individuals from the opposing political party.
Hatch pointed to his friendship with former Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts as an example of overcoming the "partisan pull."
"He was born into privilege; I was brought up in poverty. He was an East Coast liberal; I was a Reagan conservative. He was a Catholic; I was a Mormon," Hatch wrote. "Yet time and again, we were able to look past our differences to find areas of agreement and forge consensus."