American Fork » Sen. Orrin Hatch has a message for the Tea Party movement: Work with the GOP or see conservatives lose more ground.
"If we fractionalize the Republican Party, we are going to see more liberals elected," Hatch warned a crowd of 300 at a town meeting at American Fork Junior High School on Wednesday night, amid jeers from Tea Party supporters.
Hatch blamed extreme conservatives for the 2008 defeat of Sen. Gordon Smith, a politically moderate but fiscally conservative Republican from Oregon.
Hatch said if the Tea Party had not backed a constitutionalist candidate in that race, Smith wouldn't have lost to Democrat Jeff Merkley, whom Hatch described as "the most liberal senator," by 45,000 votes.
But Hatch's critics said he was not interested in listening to them.
"I think you guys are as out of touch as you can get," said Sarah Beeson, of American Fork. Hatch, she said, appeared more interested in raising money for candidates than listening to what the people had to say.
Beeson had been a state GOP delegate, but is now disaffected from the Republican Party and considers herself an independent. If the GOP comes back to constitutional principles rather than clutching fear, she said, she would come back to the party.
Hatch said he is working to build a bloc of fiscally conservative Republicans who can rein in President Barack Obama's policies.
Hatch credited his fundraising activities in part with getting Republican Scott Brown elected in Massachusetts, taking a seat that had been held by Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy for decades.
"It's our job to vote out people we don't like," someone yelled from the audience.
"And it is my job to help you," Hatch said.
Hatch also defended Senate Republicans' use of the filibuster rule, forcing Democrats to marshal 60 votes to end debate and move legislation to a final vote. Obama has blasted the practice as a lack of leadership and partisan sabotage.
"To pass anything they want in the Senate, they have to get 60 votes, and that is how we stop a lot of crap," Hatch said.
One of the things it is stopping is health care reform, and Hatch said Republicans will continue to do so until the administration comes to the bargaining table and moves away from socialized medicine.
Hatch said Obama's goal with health care reform is to get at least 60 percent of the country dependent on government, thus creating a permanent Democratic voting bloc.
But one thing Hatch won't do, he said, is vote against Obama appointees for partisan reasons. He said he won't stoop to the tactics he claims Democrats used against President George W. Bush's appointees.
Along with dealing with Tea Party members, Hatch also fielded a question about whether Obama was legitimately qualified to be president.
Tami Wall, of Saratoga Springs, asked if the Senate was going to look into whether Obama was a natural-born U.S. citizen. The "Birther" movement claims that Obama was actually born in Kenya.
Hatch said it was a fair question, but it is one that has been put to rest. Obama, he said, was born to a U.S. mother in Hawaii.
"Who has seen the papers? Have you?" Wall asked.
"I am satisfied he fits the requirements [for the presidency]," Hatch said.