Senate's longest serving Republican to step down

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch announces he will not seek re-election. Will Romney run for his seat?

Ben Ariel,

Orrin Hatch
Orrin Hatch

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch announced on Tuesday that he would not seek re-election this year, CNN reported.

"After much prayer and discussion with family and friends I've decided to retire at the end of this term," the 83-year-old Hatch said in a message posted to social media.

Hatch, the Senate's longest serving Republican who first won his seat in 1977, has wrestled with the decision for months, according to CNN.

Speculation is that Hatch’s resignation clears the path for Mitt Romney to return to the national stage by running for his seat.

Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, has a complicated relationship with President Donald Trump.

Trump has been a longtime Romney critic despite offering a 2012 presidential endorsement. Romney has been outspoken in his criticism of Trump's rhetoric and policies, calling on Republicans to block Trump's path to the presidency.

"Here's what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University," Romney said in a March 2016 speech. "He's playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat."

After Trump was elected, however, Romney was under consideration for the post of Secretary of State, which was eventually given to Rex Tillerson.

Romney has continued to criticize the President. After Trump blamed "both sides" for inciting deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer, Romney said Trump's remarks "caused racists to rejoice."

In a statement on Tuesday, Romney praised Hatch's service but did not mention anything about a possible Senate run.

I join the people of Utah in thanking my friend, Senator Orrin Hatch for his more than forty years of service to our great state and nation," Romney wrote on Facebook. "Ann and I wish Senator Orrin Hatch and his loving wife Elaine all the best in their future endeavors."

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the daily press briefing on Tuesday that Trump was "very sad" to see Hatch leave.

“The president certainly has the greatest and deepest amount of respect for Senator Hatch and his over four decades of experience in the Senate,” Sanders said, according to Fox News. “He is particularly thankful for the senator's leadership and massive effort that he played and the role that he played in getting the tax cut and reform package passed.”