SEn. Orrin Hatch Like much of the Republican Party in Congress, Hatch returned to his conservative roots after the election of President Barack Obama in 2008. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

When it comes to health policy, former Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, who died April 23 at age 88, leaves a complex legacy of major legislative achievements, changing positions, compromises, and fierce opposition. In many ways, though, Hatch’s evolution and leadership on health policy during his four decades in the U.S. Senate mirror that of the Republican Party.

When he came to Washington as a neophyte politician after an upset victory in 1976, Hatch was a conservative firebrand, one of the early leaders of the “New Right” bent on dismantling the federal welfare state and banning abortion. A former trial lawyer, the new senator had never before held public office.

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