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Trump signs bill naming Salt Lake City federal courthouse after Hatch

The cube-shaped building downtown will be named the Orrin G. Hatch Courthouse.

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Traffic passes the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 13, 2020. President Donald Trump signed a bill Monday to name the building after Orrin G. Hatch, longtime U.S. senator from Utah, who retired in 2019.

President Donald Trump on Monday signed into law the official naming of Salt Lake City’s federal courthouse after retired Utah Sen. Orrin G. Hatch.

The outgoing president’s approval follows unanimous Senate and House support in late fall for now calling the metallic cube-shaped building at 351 S. West Temple the Orrin G. Hatch Courthouse in honor of Hatch, who is 86 and stepped down in January 2019.

Elected to seven consecutive terms, Hatch is Utah’s longest serving U.S. senator and was replaced by Sen. Mitt Romney, also a Republican, in 2019.

The Trump administration confirmed the president’s signature on the bill, along with 18 others signed Monday that designated new names for U.S. post offices across the country, providing no additional comment.

Hatch, who now heads the Salt Lake City-based Orrin G. Hatch Foundation, devoted to policy scholarship and political discourse, could not be reached Monday. A spokeswoman for his foundation instead referred to statements the former senator made Dec. 8, when renaming the building built in 2013 drew unanimous House approval on a voice vote.

The former senator said at the time he’d been “immensely humbled” by the gesture.

“As one of the longest-serving members in the history of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I made it my life’s legacy to defend the rule of law and the integrity of our courts,” he said. “I hope the naming of the federal courthouse will inspire generations of judges and attorneys to carry on this legacy.”

Hatch also drew widespread praise that day from members of Utah’s congressional delegation and former colleagues on Capitol Hill. During House debate, Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, said Hatch “was a remarkable reminder of the bipartisanship that we need to return to,” noting his famous friendship with Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy, among others.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said Hatch’s “impact on the state of Utah cannot be overstated.” Romney called him “one of our state and country’s most dedicated public servants.”

Lee tweeted later Monday that the naming the building in Hatch’s honor “is a fitting tribute to his service.”

Hatch, a Pennsylvania native, first beat then-incumbent Utah Sen. Frank Moss, a Democrat, in 1976. He had a hand in landmark legislation across the spectrum and influenced Supreme Court appointments over four decades, presiding over several prominent Senate committees including Finance and Judiciary.

The U.S. Senate had previously backed the courthouse being named after Hatch in 2018, but that vote was considered symbolic, with congressional rules barring naming federal facilities after sitting senators and Hatch still in office.

The 2018 voice vote also caught Hatch by surprise, he said at the time. The measure was introduced again in the U.S. Senate late November.

It was unclear late Monday if or when any formal ceremony would be held at the $186 million building in downtown Salt Lake City to label it the Orrin G. Hatch Courthouse. Unnamed before, the structure at 400 South and West Temple has sometimes been called the “Borg Cube” for its cubical shape, a reference to an alien spaceship in “Star Trek.”

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