I read that Senator Orrin Hatch will be retiring. I have deep disagreements with Senator Hatch’s conservative politics, but I respect his willingness during most of his career to cross the aisle and collaborate with Democrats on areas of common ground. Senator Hatch’s most famous collaboration was with liberal Democrat Senator Ted Kennedy. They become close friends during their times in the Senate. Their friendship was close enough that Hatch was able to privately confront Kennedy on the excesses of his private life and told Kennedy that he had to get his drinking under control. Due to the urgings of friends like Orrin Hatch and Kennedy’s marriage to Vicky Reggie, Kennedy cleaned up his private life and was happy and content in the later years of his life.
Among the most important bills that Senators Hatch and Kennedy collaborated on:
The Orphan Drug Act , which provided tax credits for encouraging the development of medicines for rare diseases.
The Ryan White Aids Act, which established a federally funded program for people living with HIV/AIDS, with an emphasis on providing funding to improve availability of care for low-income, uninsured, and under-insured victims of AIDS and their families.
The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which provided health insurance to thousands of the working poor across our country.
The Mammography Standards in 1992
The Americans with Disabilities Act, which provided individual protections from discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
The FDA Revitalization Act of 2007, which addressed many critical issues including the need to provide proper incentives and support for the development and review of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, and the need for heightened efforts to assure the safety of medications.
The PDUFA, a program that created drug user fees to help expedite the approval of new drugs. This legislation continues to be reauthorized.
The Health Centers Renewal Act of 2007, which reauthorized the health center program for five more years and provided people with essential health care services.
The FDAMA – FDA Modernization Act of 1997, which regulated prescription drug advertising, food safety, and codified the requirements for access to life saving medicines.
The Bioshield Legislation, which increased federal, state, and local infrastructure for bioterrorism preparedness.
Sadly, this era of bipartisan collaboration seems to have passed. As the Republican Party has moved further to the extreme Right, Republicans have become more averse to partnering with Democrats on areas of common ground for fear of punishment from extreme Right wing groups. Michael Tomasky for The New York Times wrote an article titled The Sad Trajectory of Orrin Hatch on the effect this has had on Senator Hatch. Tomasky wrote:
Mr. Hatch’s career reflects the sad trajectory of our times, from a Congress where legislators had differences but actually tried to legislate, to one in which legislators — especially Republicans, terrified of facing a well-financed primary from the right — do nothing of the sort…
…Mr. Hatch did what senators did in those days: He governed. Across party lines. His most famous association, of course, was with Edward M. Kennedy. They worked together on biomedical research, child care, AIDS and civil rights for the disabled.
Most important, they teamed up in 1997 on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, the same program that’s on the block today…
…Mr. Hatch was up for re-election in 2012. He faced a Tea Party challenger, Dan Liljenquist. He knew what he had to do. He opposed virtually every item on Barack Obama’s agenda. He ratcheted up the rhetoric. In 2007, Freedom Works, a right-wing pressure group, rated him at an abysmal 25 percent. By 2011, Mr. Hatch had brought that up to 88 percent. He’d burnished his right-wing credentials enough so that Sarah Palin endorsed him in 2012. He beat Mr. Liljenquist nearly two to one…
…It’s not that Mr. Hatch is a bad man. He’s surely a decent man, trapped in an indecent dynamic.
I hope that the Republican Party moves away from the extreme Right and reaches out to Democrats to work on areas of common ground.
Here is Senator Orrin Hatch’s remarks at the memorial service of Senator Ted Kennedy
Here is a video of Senator Orrin Hatch talking about the Serve America Act, the last collaboration between Senator Orrin Hatch and Senator Ted Kennedy.
According to Wikipedia, The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act expanded on the AmeriCorps program. Included in this bill are some major provisions related to improving volunteerism. First, five new service corps are created which address the needs of low income communities. These include a Clean Energy Corps to encourage energy efficiency and conservation; an Education Corps to help increase student engagement, achievement and graduation; a Healthy Futures Corps to improve health care access; a Veterans Service Corps to enhance services for veterans; and an Opportunity Corps.
Conservative Republican Orrin Hatch and liberal Democrat Ted Kennedy collaborated in the Ryan White Act, a bill that helped AIDS victim during the worst of the AIDS crisis.
In 1984, 13-year-old Ryan White changed the face of AIDS by speaking out against intolerance. Following his death in 1990, the Ryan White CARE (Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency) Act received vast bipartisan support and today is the backbone of our fight against HIV/AIDS in the United States, providing lifesaving treatment and prevention services to nearly half of all people living with HIV nationwide.
Senator Ted Kennedy interviewed by On A Roll Disability Talk Radio Host, Greg Smith, during the 10-year anniversary celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act