After shepherding a major tax cut package through the Congress, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) announced on Tuesday that he would not run for re-election in November, possibly opening a path for former GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney to run for Senate from his home state.
“I’ve decided to retire at the end of this term,” Hatch said in a message to Utah voters. “I’m deeply grateful for the privilege you’ve given me to serve as your Senator for these last four decades.”
Hatch’s decision came despite public efforts by President Donald Trump to convince the most senior Republican Senator to try to win election for an eighth term in office; Hatch was first elected back in 1976, in part because he said the incumbent Senator had served too long in Washington.
"What do you call a Senator who’s served in office for 18 years? You call him home,” Hatch argued, at a time when Sen. Frank Moss (D-UT) had been in office for three terms.
Hatch is now in his seventh term. Here was his video announcement from today:
“Sen. Hatch has been a tremendous servant to the people of Utah and he will be sorely missed,” said Hatch’s colleague, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).
There was no immediate indication from Romney, who is a Utah resident, whether he would run for Hatch’s seat. In a statement issued on Facebook, the one-time GOP nominee for President praised Hatch’s service, but did not discuss a run for Senate in 2018.
Hatch is the third Republican Senator to decide against re-election; the other two were GOP lawmakers who had emerged as doubters of the President, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN).
The first day back to work in 2018 not only brought Hatch’s decision not to run for re-election, but also a retirement announcement from Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
At this point, 21 House members have announced they will retire at the end of this Congress, while 18 others are running for another office.
With Shuster’s announcement today, that brings the House turnover to 39 total – 9 percent of the House. That number will only grow, as more retirements are anticipated in coming weeks, and some lawmakers are likely to lose in November as well.
While many people believe that turnover is often low in the Congress, the House has been going through a period of double digit change for a number of years – every election cycle since 2004, turnover has been over 10 percent, peaking at 22 percent in the Tea Party wave of 2010.
At this point in the House, 14 Democrats won’t be returning in 2019 for the 116th Congress, along with 25 Republicans.
Back in the Senate, Hatch is the second most senior member of that body right now; only Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has served longer. Leahy was first elected in the post-Watergate election of 1974.
One note about Rep. Shuster – his father, former Rep. Bud Shuster (R-PA), announced his decision to leave the Congress on January 4, 2001 – almost 17 years ago to the day.
Shuster – the Elder – left Congress months after being rebuked by the House Ethics Committee for violating gift rules, and his ties to a former Chief of Staff.