I think the pressure is starting to get to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). He saw what happened to his former colleague, Bob Bennett, in a GOP primary in 2010, and Hatch is starting to panic that he’ll meet the same fate.
But when the heat is on, some rise to the occasion, showing poise and grace. Some, like Hatch, just fall apart.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) voted against beginning debate on a measure that would have the Senate declare the rich should share the pain of debt reduction Thursday, a day after arguing that it’s the poor and middle class who need to do more.
“I hear how they’re so caring for the poor and so forth,” Hatch said in remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday, in reference to Democrats. “The poor need jobs! And they also need to share some of the responsibility.”
Hatch went on to say he finds it outrageous that so many millions of Americans don’t pay income taxes, adding, “And that’s going up by the way because of our friend down in the White House and his allies.”
Just so we’re clear, Hatch is incensed because President Obama and his allies aren’t taxing the middle class enough.
This comes up from time to time, and I continue to find it fascinating. Specifically, when conservatives complain about too many Americans not paying federal income taxes, they tend to overlook relevant details — such as the fact that these same Americans still pay sales taxes, state taxes, local taxes, Social Security taxes, Medicare/Medicaid taxes, and in many instances, property taxes.
It’s not as if these folks are getting away with something — the existing tax structure leaves them out of the income tax system because they don’t make enough money to qualify.
Moreover, the GOP has a natural revulsion to any tax system, but there’s an eerie comfort with a regressive agenda that showers additional wealth on the rich while asking for more from lower-income workers.
While we’re at it, let’s also not forget that Hatch is the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, and would be in a position to serve as chairman if he wins reelection and Republicans take the Senate next year. At that point, he could use his power to punish working people more directly.
Hatch has always been a conservative Republican, but he’d developed a reputation over the years for idiosyncratic positions. Despite being firmly on the right — at least as “the right” was defined in, say, the ’90s — Hatch supported stem-cell research, co-sponsored the DREAM Act, and partnered with Ted Kennedy to pass the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, bringing health coverage to low-income kids. Centrist Democrats hoping to craft a major bipartisan deal would immediately reach out to Hatch.
Needless to say, those days are over.