Bennett called 'fighter' for Utah
Speaking in reverential tones, Sen. Orrin Hatch went to the Senate floor Tuesday to mark the end of the 18-year career of his colleague from Utah, Sen. Bob Bennett.
With Bennett sitting just a few feet behind him, Hatch gave a 10-minute address that included Bennett's complete personal history, from his high school graduation to his first election to the Senate in 1992. Bennett, who lost his re-election campaign earlier this year, will leave office in early January.
Hatch called Bennett "a fighter for the people of Utah" who helped secure money to modernize roads and bring commuter trains.
"Every single person in the state of Utah has benefited from the work of Senator Bennett," said Hatch, who diverted from his prepared remarks and evoked their shared faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"Bob Bennett is a wise counselor. He is a truly honest man," Hatch said. "He lives his religious beliefs.
"I believe it is safe to say everybody in Utah will miss him as well. Some more than others, but nevertheless, if they look at his record and they look at the things he has done for our state and our people, they are going to thank God that Bob Bennett was a senator for 18 solid years," said Hatch, who was first elected in 1976. "I personally thank our father in heaven for having him here as a partner to me, as a friend and somebody I can rely on."
The speech comes at a time when Hatch has repeatedly said he is more conservative than Bennett, when answering questions about his political chances in a 2012 campaign.
Bennett hasn't taken offense and, in reaction to Hatch's speech, thanked his colleague for his support.
"In the recent election when there were those who were suggesting that maybe Orrin should distance himself from me for his own political benefit, I am gratified by the fact that he not only refused to do that, but to the very end did everything he could throughout the state to see to it that I was triumphant in that election," Bennett said in the chamber. "It turns out that I was not."
Bennett jokingly said listening to Hatch's speech was like listening to his own eulogy.
"I'm embarrassed and humbled and gratified by the comments of my senior colleague," he said.