Washington • The Senate on Thursday surprised outgoing Sen. Orrin Hatch by passing legislation to name Salt Lake City’s federal courthouse after him.
The building on West Temple and 400 South will be known as the Orrin G. Hatch Courthouse if the House agrees to the legislation and President Donald Trump signs it.
Thursday’s move, though, was largely symbolic. Congressional rules generally forbid naming a federal building after a sitting senator, so the legislation would likely have to be voted on again when the new Congress takes office next month.
Hatch, who was presiding over the Senate when the bill was brought up, wasn't aware his fellow senators were planning the tribute.
“I didn't realize that was going to happen this morning,” Hatch said. “I'm very honored.”
“Congratulations on that bill,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska. “It's very appropriate that you should be the one passing it since it's named after you. You've given a lifetime of tremendous service to the United States of America.”
The courthouse, which opened in 2013, has no name and it has long been rumored that Hatch may one day get that honor. Some residents have nicknamed the building as the “Borg Cube," a reference to a Star Trek alien ship that it resembles.
Hatch had faced competition from advocates for naming the courthouse after George Sutherland, the only Utahn to ever serve on the Supreme Court, but Hatch’s legacy as a former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman and his shaping of the high court and the federal judiciary may ultimately win out if Congress follows through on naming the building.
Hatch had previously said that it was "embarrassing" to have discussions of naming the courthouse after him, though said it was a “very kind gesture” even if he wasn't involved in pushing for an edifice to honor him.
“I’ve kind of kept my hands off of it because some have said they want it to be named after me,” he told The Salt Lake Tribune in 2013. “I think it’s none of my business.”
"I've never asked to have my name on anything. Period,” Hatch added.
The bill to name the courthouse, just introduced Thursday morning, was approved by unanimous consent, meaning there was no actual vote. When Sullivan raised the bill on the floor and no one objected, Hatch ruled it passed.
Hatch is concluding his 42nd year in the Senate and will be replaced by Sen.-elect Mitt Romney on Jan. 3.