‘You are one heckuva leader’: After tax vote, Sen. Orrin Hatch says Trump may become the best president ever

President Donald Trump acknowledges Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah., as he speaks during an event on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017, to acknowledge the final passage of tax overhaul legislation by Congress. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Washington • As Republicans took a victory lap on their now-passed tax overhaul Wednesday, Sen. Orrin Hatch lathered on the praise of President Donald Trump, calling him one of the best presidents “maybe ever.”

The Utah Republican, appearing on the South Lawn of the White House with Trump and congressional leaders to herald the first major rewriting of the tax code in 31 years, gushed about the president who returned the favor, turning to Hatch and telling the crowd that he is a “special friend of mine.”

Mr. President, I have to say you are living up to everything I thought you would,” Hatch said. “You are one heckuva leader, and we’re all benefiting from it.

We are making headway. This is just the beginning,” Hatch continued. “If you stop and think about it, this president hasn’t even been in office for a year and look at all the things he’s been able to get done. I hope we get behind him every way we can and we’ll get this country turned around in ways that will benefit the whole world.”

Hatch, who, as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, helped shepherd the tax bill through Congress, also doubled down on a comment he made recently that Trump was “one of the best I’ve served under” by saying Trump may be the best president in U.S. history.

We are going to keep fighting,” Hatch said. “And we are going to make this the greatest presidency we have seen, not only in generations, but maybe ever.”

Boy, that was good,” Trump responded. House Speaker “Paul Ryan just said, ‘How good was that?’”

Trump had introduced Hatch to the crowd and the news media, noting the Utah senator had backed him during the presidential race. (Hatch had initially supported former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio before settling on Trump.)

Hatch is “someone who spoke really well of me when it wasn’t exactly the easiest thing to do,” Trump said. “He was just always in there, always fighting for all of us, and did a fantastic job as chairman.”

Hatch and Trump also lauded each other earlier this month during the president’s first trip to Utah, where he signed proclamations reducing the size of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments, replacing them with five smaller designations.

During that visit, Trump urged Hatch to seek an eighth Senate term in 2018. Hatch said he’ll make that decision in the coming weeks.