|ONE ON ONE: ORRIN HATCH|
December 17, 1999
Utah's senior senator, Orrin Hatch, believes he is the only Republican presidential candidate with the experience to lead the nation. He discusses his campaign with Ray Suarez.
RAY SUAREZ: Tonight, we hear from Republican Orrin Hatch, the senior senator from Utah. He's 65 years old, a Pennsylvania native, a graduate of Brigham Young University and the University of Pittsburgh Law School. His political career began with a winning run for the U.S. Senate in 1976. He's now in his fourth term and is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Hatch, welcome.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Well, I'm happy to be with you again.
|A "common sense" conservative|
RAY SUAREZ: Let's start with a quote from Orrin Hatch. "I think if I could just get out there and tell my story, I think people are going to hear my story and say, 'he's a pretty good guy.'" What would you want people to know and what haven't you had a chance to tell people about yourself?
SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Of course, I worked right up till the end of the session. Some have estimated I passed as many as 41 bills in this last session of Congress. A number of them are landmark bills. So I haven't had as much chance to get out there, but I've been oh, ten or eleven times to New Hampshire, as many times to Iowa and a number of other states as well. And wherever I go, people say, "Senator, we know you're running an ordinary people's campaign, asking a million people to give $36; Senator, hang in there, don't quit; we need you; we need somebody who for the first time in years will not be picked by the establishment elite and who literally will be working for the people."
So I'm getting that everywhere I go. I get it on the planes. I get it as I walk through malls. I get it as I walk through cafes, and restaurants, and say hello to people, and I've got to say, I feel because I came in so late and I haven't had enough people sending in those $36 yet to Orrinhatch.com or Orrinhatch.org or to our post office box: 3636 Salt Lake City, 84110.
Got to get those in - and I think people, if they'll support me, they're going to see the most interesting campaign they've ever seen in history, and they're going to see somebody who isn't beholden to the usual establishment in Washington, who will be beholden only to the ordinary people out there who put him in office. I wouldn't want to be elected any other way.
RAY SUAREZ: You've often called yourself a common sense conservative. When we look at some of the challenges facing the country now, how would a common sense conservative answer some of them?
SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Well, first of all, I'm known as one of the handful of people who convinced Ronald Reagan we should cut marginal tax rates from 70 percent down to 28 percent, so I'm a tax cutter, and I'm a proven one; I've done it. Secondly, I think it's going to take a common sense conservative to save Social Security and Medicare. I don't think there's any question about it. They're fraught with problems; there's no question that the baby boomers came on in 2011 and Social Security, by 2025, will have 75 percent more people on the payroll. And by 2035, we'll only have 71 percent of the funds necessary to pay the 100 percent we'll owe. In Medicare, we're going to have -- you know Medicare started out as a $3 billion program. It's better than $232 billion as we sit here; it will be $450 billion by 2008. There are 40 million people in the program now. By 2035, there will be 80 million people. We cannot wait another presidency to solve those problems.
It's going to take a common sense conservative to do it, somebody who not only has experience that money can't buy, which I have, somebody who not only has a record that I don't think any of the candidates can match, but somebody who is the only one running for President this year who really has a reputation for bringing both sides together and getting it done in Washington. And I could move right into the White House and start as an effective President day one.
So if I can just get enough time, if I get enough people to send in their $36 or more, I think we can win this election and it would be a really pleasant thing to see somebody elected by the people for a change who is trying to gather the people together and get them to work together in the best interest of the country and who is willing to face the pain and the ordeal and the difficulty of saving Social Security and Medicare -- of course getting our military back up to steam, making sure or schools are safe for American kids, getting rid of crimes and drugs to the extent that we can -- I know more about that than anybody -- and bridging this divide between class and race in our society.
I think it's going to take a common sense conservative to do it - to get the conservatives to do what's right, the liberals to do what's right and of course bring them together to work together in the best interest of our country. I think I can do that. I have got a reputation in the Senate of doing it. Why not can't I do it as president?
RAY SUAREZ: Earlier today in New Hampshire, you unveiled a series of tax proposals. And if we assume that tax law is all about encouraging certain kinds of behavior and discouraging other kinds of behavior, what is your plan trying to encourage Americans to do?
SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Well, it's not just that. But I think we should put a cap on federal taxation. We are now being taxed at all time federal tax rates -- war time tax rates, I should say - as a percent of GDP, the highest since the Second World War. So, we need to put a cap on the total taxes paid to the federal government.
Any tax program must reward initiative and investment and strengthen the economy. We must not penalize the American family. We have got to get rid of the marriage penalty tax. We must not penalize parents, individual or married. I think we must not tax people again when they die because we don't... it cost 65 cents for every dollar we collect in death taxes.
And, of course, we've got to guarantee simplicity and eliminate the waste and the cost that comes from filling out all the forms. I think we've got to -- one of the first things I would do is establish a presidential commission. They would be given three assignments: Number one, I want a significant tax cut. Number two, I want a system that's simple and fair. Number three, the IRS, as we know it, will end. We've got to get rid of the IRS as we know it. And it can become an auditing part of the government but it should not be an oppressive part of the government. Now, as far as the initial tax thing that would I try to get through Congress, while the commission works on getting us a fair, simple decent workable tax system that basically gets rid of this Internal Revenue Code, would do this.
|A call for tax cuts|
RAY SUAREZ: Would we be able to balance the budget, given where we are at now? I mean, we are finally in rough balance.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH: We would repeal the unfair taxes of Clinton and Gore. They've put up us up to a 40 percent marginal rate from the 28 percent President Reagan had us. We're 30 points below where President Reagan was when he came into office. We would double the personal exemptions, and that would save $3,000 for the average family of four per year.
We would deduct Social Security. You know, a lot of people in our society pay a lot more in Social Security taxes than they do in personal income taxes. That's where the gouge is coming to the poor people. I would I allow them to deduct their Social Security payments as we do other payments; that would save about $1770 for the average family of four. We would exempt the first $5,000 of dividend and interest income for an individual, $10,000 for a couple filing jointing. That would encourage saving and investment and help keep our economy going.
We would eliminate all penalties on marriage. That would save about $14 billion a year just in costs that are stupid -- that penalize people for being married and undermine marriage itself. Think about it. Better than 51 percent of our country today do not believe that marriage is a sanctified institution. Where have we fallen? Why have we done this? Why are we doing this to ourselves? Part of it is because they get creamed by the Internal Revenue Service and by these unfair bills.
RAY SUAREZ: A lot of married couples, however, reap a benefit tax wise. Would you make the tax code marriage neutral or would you...
SEN. ORRIN HATCH: I would repeal the marriage tax penalty and have married people treated like everybody else. I would also repeal the state and gift tax laws. Why should we have a death penalty -- it costs 65 cents to collect every dollar of death taxes - and the main people who get hurt are the family farmer and the small businesspeople. In 1990, we had 22 million family farms; today we have five million. That's part of the reason, because they have to sell the family farm which is asset rich but cash poor to pay the 55 percent death tax that the federal government assesses and so do the small businesspeople, while the wealthy avoid it by the complicated system of trusts. We have got to get rid of that. And then I would repeal the individual and corporate minimum taxes. Now, those are the things I'd want to do as quickly as I could. But I would have this commission working to simplify this whole thing and get it so that we can't just, within a matter of years, put it right back where it is today.
RAY SUAREZ: Okay. Well, let's say you did that -- doubled the personal exemption, went to a deduction for Social Security, eliminated capital gains taxes.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH: And did all the rest. We've had 17 years of basic economic expansion. And that came because under Reagan, a handful of us convinced him to cut marginal tax rates from 70 percent down to 28 percent. It's driving this economy -- the Hatch-Lieberman capital gains rate reduction that reduces capital gains rates from 28 percent to 20 percent. All the Democrats and liberals said we would lose revenues; DRI, not a conservative econometric modeling firm, said not only did we not lose revenues, we actually gained revenues, which was our theory to begin with. Tax policy can work to stimulate the economy. We've got to keep this high-tech world going and we have got to be at the forefront of that as well. Good taxation will help there. For instance, I led the drive to have the research and development tax credit last five years so that people can plan ahead. And that's going to help us to keep this high-tech business going and keep us number one in the world.
Among other things, we passed a whole raft of Hatch high-tech bills and copyright bills and copyright protection acts, the patent bill that was the most important patent bill in the last 50 years, that puts us above and beyond anybody else in the world all at the end of this last session because it was working. And, on top of all that, I went to Iowa. I went to Utah. I went to New Hampshire. And I found that the skilled nursing facilities where senior citizens with complex medical conditions were all going broke -- 900 of them were in chapter 11. The assisted nursing centers were going broke because the reimbursement level set by HICFA, in part to the blame of Congress in the 1997 Balanced Budget Act -- they were not enough to keep those facilities going. These seniors were going to get put out in the street.
I came back and I worked my tail off along with Chairman Thomas in the House and Bill Roth, chairman of the Finance Committee in the Senate and others, to fix that process. And now all those nursing homes are back in full bore being able to take care of our senior citizens. That's the kind of things that I can do as President. I've done a lot as a senator. Can you imagine what I could get done as a president? And that's why I'm running, because I can do a lot more.
|Judges that will interpret the law, not make it|
RAY SUAREZ: Several of the candidates have mentioned it, but only you've made a centerpiece of what you're saying on the stump: Discussion of Judiciary nominees.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH: That's right. The single most important issue in this next campaign happens to be, after Clinton will have appointed almost 50 percent of the total federal Judiciary, and two Supreme Court Justices, who is going to appoint the other 50 percent, the next President will, and up to five Supreme Court Justices, certainly three. And I can tell you there are a lot of 5-4 decisions that are family friendly, business friendly. I should say law enforcement friendly that will go the other way 6-3 or 7-2 if Al Gore or Bill Bradley get in there -- nice men but very far left. Now, I have got to tell you -- not one presidential nominee has centered on how important this is. And I can tell you this: This country will drastically change if we have 100 percent of one-third of the separated powers of government, the Judiciary, under the control of the left. And I've got to tell you, you'll find more legislation from the bench, things that they can get through five judges on the Supreme Court or six, that they could never get through the people's body, the Congress of the United States. And I've got tell you, it's the most serious factor there is. And I have worked with these judges for 23 years. Eight of the nine Supreme Court justices I've had a pretty substantial role in -- and almost all of the current federal judges.
I'd like to be able to pick them because I think people across the board from the left to the right, I think would be very pleased with the Hatch administration's judges. First of all, they would be honest. They would be people of integrity. They'd be people of legal dimension. They would be people who would have good judicial temperament. And they would... and I have one litmus test. They would be people who would understand and abide by the rule of judging, which is the judges are nominated and confirmed for life to interpret the laws, not make them. They're to interpret the laws made by those who have to stand for reelection. Judges, when they start taking laws into their own hands, and passing laws off the bench as super legislators in black robes, they undermine the Constitution.
And I have to say up till now, it has been the judiciary that has preserved the Constitution more than the other two separated powers. Congress will go off the wall like the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform, which is unconstitutional. They'll go off and do things like that all the time. It's the courts that have stopped it in Buckley vs. Vallejo, which says that McCain-Feingold is unconstitutional. And yet today you would think that was a big issue. It is a big issue because -- in the sense that we need to have disclosure, disclosure, disclosure. We need to put our campaign finances and -- on the Internet within two weeks of receipts and disbursement. And we need to raise the limit so individuals are treated as well as PACs. And if we do that and have disclosure, let the American people - let them make the determination of who is good. I'm saying the judges are extremely important. And I've got to tell you, I know more about that than anybody running. And it's pretty apparent because not one of them has raised this as a major issue.
|Running a "people's campaign"|
RAY SUAREZ: Let's talk a little bit about the campaign. You've been at this just over five months, close on six months.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Really if you think of the work in the Congress, it's only been a few months -- you when stop to think about it. As far as the $36 contributions, we've had a little over half a million -- maybe up to $600,000. We've had about $160,000 come over our Orrinhatch.com or Orrin hatch.org Web page; we've raised a little over $2 million -- $2.2 million at this point. That's not a lot of money. But I don't think you have to spend $25 million as Forbes and Bush have spent. You know, they're talking about running as people who will conserve spending, who will be conservatives in spending, and yet they spend $25 million and we even haven't had vote one cast. I worry about people like that.
RAY SUAREZ: New Hampshire is a state where you can run meeting people in Kiwanis halls, Rotary meetings, Jaycees and all these places which isn't very cash intense. It does cost money, but when you get to states like Pennsylvania with two big media markets, California with half a dozen, is it going to be possible to run that skinny cat campaign?
SEN. ORRIN HATCH: You're darn right. If I get my skinny cats out there, if I get a million of them, that will be the biggest issue in the history of American politics. If Orrin Hatch is running on $36 plus donations, and I get my million people, I'll get three million people and I'll tell you something, it will be a people's campaign. It will be a campaign... I've had... do you realize I have mostly Republicans but I have a lot of Democrats out there that supporting my campaign saying you're the only one running for the people. You're the only one who seems to care about the people. By gosh, we've watched your record and you've been fair across the board even though you're a conservative Republican. I'll tell you something, if you million people, if you'll get $36 plus in to me, I won't let you down. It's just that simple.
RAY SUAREZ: If that doesn't work, will there come a point where you have to turn your eyes back to Iowa because your seat is coming up?
SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Well, I am in Iowa. We're working in Iowa. We don't have a big organization on the ground nor will we be able to go on television like these others. Wouldn't it be wonderful, though, to have somebody who's a good family man, been married to the same wife for 43 years, has six children, 19 grandchildren and who basically has worked his guts out as a senator all these years and who is willing to do more? Wouldn't it be wonderful -- who is running a small donor campaign, an ordinary people campaign, who's going to be beholden only to the ordinary people and who really is trying to get everybody involved in politics and in a presidential campaign. That's what I'm doing. It's worthwhile doing whether I win or lose. I think I can win but I've got to have help from all of you out there.
RAY SUAREZ: Senator Hatch, good to see you. Thanks a lot.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Nice to see you. I appreciate being with you.