Hatch says he shares limited gov't goal of FreedomWorks, defends past S-CHIP support 

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, on a conference call with bloggers earlier today, sought to portray himself as a strong limited government conservative who was eager to tackle the nation’s long-term debt crisis. The call came with the news that FreedomWorks, the grassroots group with close links to tea party activists, has made him their first Republican target in 2012.

Freedomworks played a key role in the defeat of former Republican Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah in the last cycle, and it’s a heavily Republican state that’s capable of electing somebody more conservative. Hatch clearly feels the heat, and his voting record has trended more conservative in recent years. He addressed the FreedomWorks news at the outset of the call.

“While I don’t think they should be getting into my reelect, I can tell you we share the same goals for limited government,” Hatch said. “America is a wonderful place, where people have the first amendment right to free expression, and I’ll continue to work hard on a pro-growth agenda to get Washington out of the way so that our small businesses, middle-class families, and job creators can thrive.”

Hatch touted his championing of a balanced budget amendment in 1997, which failed by just one vote in the Senate, as well as his role in passing welfare reform. He emphasized the need to get serious about reining in entitlements.

I asked Hatch how he squares the comments he made today with his passed support for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which he co-sponsored with Ted Kennedy in 1997, then voted to extend in 2007, before voting against it when it was introduced in January 2009, at the start of the Obama administration. S-CHIP has added to the problems facing state budgets.

“There’s nothing more conservative than work,” Hatch responded. “The working poor were choosing not to work in order to get their children health insurance through Medicaid. And other people who were working poor, they were the only ones whose kids were left out of the health care system. I wanted all of them to work, so we created this limited -- and by the way, it’s ‘S’-CHIP,  a far cry from what the president did, it meant state operate health insurance for these kids, these children of the working poor. So we created this limited, state-based insurance just for children of the working poor. But low and behold, a liberal takes the White House and turned it into another Washington-dictated health monstrosity, leaving states with almost no input.”

He added, “It worked amazingly well in every state except about for of them, and it worked well because it was based on 50 state laboratories, where the states themselves control the program, and of course it was dramatically changed by Democrats. I had to vote against it.”

Even in 1997, however, S-CHIP represented a big government expansion of the health care entitlement system. And by nature, conservatives should assume that any government program, once created, is going to expand well beyond its original intent.

Hatch would be in line to take over the leadership of the Senate Finance Committee if he’s reelected and Republicans win back control of the Senate. The committee oversees programs representing 60 percent  of the budget, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

“As chairman of the Finance Committee in 2013, I will be probably the most hated man in Washington, because I’m willing to tackle these spending problems,” he said. “I look forward to bringing these values of small government, more liberty, and less government to Washington.”

He continued, “You will never have a another chairman of the Finance Committee like myself, I guarantee you, I’m going to be there to try and get this country straightened out. And hopefully we can get enough conservatives in the United States Senate and House of Representatives to be able to do the type of things that I think need to be done. “

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