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McEntee: At least Hatch voted correctly – but don't stop there

Published January 2, 2013 7:01 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In the end, Sen. Orrin Hatch did the right thing. He voted to spare all 99 percent of us who pay taxes from what could have been a painful financial hit.

Hatch certainly didn't spare his criticism of the bill and President Barack Obama.

"The political calculus from the White House is not what the American people deserve," he said, urging Obama to "put the art of politicking aside and begin the art of governing."

This from a member of the Senate, which, with the U.S. House, put off voting on anything to avoid the fiscal cliff (also known as the fiscal knoll) until the last, drop-dead moment before a new Congress is installed. Hatch also was the only member of the Utah delegation to vote for the fix, limited though it was.

Sen. Mike Lee, as usual, made much of saying no and whining about Congress' shortcomings.

Rep. Rob Bishop wants deep spending cuts for everything except national defense and, by extension, his beloved Hill Air Force Base. Rep. Jason Chaffetz piously said he couldn't vote for a package that increases federal spending despite the fact that it helps the middle class, who still will lose money to higher Social Security taxes.

The Utah delegation's lone Democrat, Rep. Jim Matheson, apparently walking carefully in what soon will be his new, considerably Republican district, said that absent finding a way to achieve debt reduction right now, he couldn't support the bill.

So, Utah delegation, what's it going to take to achieve all that you wish for? Well, rational, across-the-aisle discussions would be one way. How about starting as soon as the new Congress is convened? And instead of playing politics to the death, senators and representatives could sit in their various caucuses and committees to get things done for the people.

Hatch, who says he won't run for office again, could be a senior statesman, forming intelligent alliances to reduce federal spending, overhaul the tax code and ease the tax burden on small businesses. After all, according to the federal Small Business Administration, the small-business sector is growing fast and, since 1982, has created 8 million new jobs, compared with the 4 million eliminated by big business.

As Hatch himself said, the 113th Congress must "be bold; we need to reform government once and for all. There is too much at stake to put this off any longer."

In the past few days, Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., showed lawmakers — albeit late in the game — how real leaders can make things happen, even as Congress resounded with howls.

Now, besides these vital fiscal issues, Obama has said he wants to take on gun control and immigration reform.

Remember the Dream Act, Sen. Hatch, the one you supported before you opposed it? The law that would have forged a path to citizenship for millions of young immigrants brought into this country as little children?

That could be your next big moment.

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at pegmcentee@sltrib.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter: @pegmcentee.