Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, struck an optimistic tone during his visit to the Utah Legislature Wednesday, saying a Republican-controlled federal government was ready to get to work.
And while President Donald Trump may irritate and displease some, Hatch said, there is a need for patience with the new administration.
"Give this president a chance. I think he's the only person in this political situation that may be able to turn this mess around," Hatch said. "He's a real doer."
Hatch was critical of Democratic efforts to filibuster and oppose Trump's Cabinet appointments. He said it is impressive how much the nation's new executive had achieved despite "unbelievable" levels of obstruction by the minority party.
"He's doing things, without any help from the other side, that just need to be done," Hatch said.
Hatch said he had personally met with Trump to discuss rescinding the Bears Ears National Monument, and that Republicans were committed to pushing through a repeal and eventual replacement of the Affordable Care Act.
"We are going to repeal Obamacare," Hatch said. "And then it becomes important for Republicans and Democrats to change Obamacare and replace it with something that really will work."
He also heaped praise on Neil Gorsuch, Trump's pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, saying the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals judge was "one of the top two or three" judges in the United States.
Hatch said the vacant seat on the Supreme Court was the most important factor in November's election, and that Utah is well-served by a judge familiar with Western states.
"With Neil Gorsuch, I think we're going to have a protection for religious liberty that we would otherwise not have had," Hatch said. "He does not believe in making the law what he wants it be. He believes in interpreting the law as it exists."
Hatch said Trump may not be as tough on undocumented immigrants — especially "dreamers" brought into the country as children by their parents — as he may appear with newly signed policies that could deport people who commit minor crimes including traffic violations.
The president is focused on criminals, Hatch said, not those individuals who are trying to live within the constraints of the United States.
"We should not hold it against the children who come into this country," he said. "But I do have to say we are a nation of laws. We have to find some way to resolve these very delicate and difficult problems, especially for children, that still allows our laws to be paramount."
Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, asked Hatch for his thoughts on federalism and how government programs could be decentralized to return more authority to the states.
"How can we get a little bit of that power back?" Okerlund said.
Hatch said he expects the Obamacare replacement to give authority over health care to the states, with federal assistance, and that he is hopeful President Trump will continue to undo the federal requirements launched by former President Barack Obama.
He also spoke about his many attempts at passing a balanced budget constitutional amendment, and commended the Utah Legislature for their track record of conservative fiscal policy.
"We're going to have to really work hard to elect people who will work like the Utah Legislature to have a balanced budget," Hatch said.
— Reporter Lee Davidson contributed to this report.