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My view: Utah needs Sen. Hatch

FILE "” Senator Orrin Hatch, introduces Apple CEO Tim Cook as they sit down in a special Q&A session with members of the Utah tech community at the Grand America in Salt Lake City on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016.
FILE "” Senator Orrin Hatch, introduces Apple CEO Tim Cook as they sit down in a special Q&A session with members of the Utah tech community at the Grand America in Salt Lake City on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The 2016 election marked a resounding victory for Utah. With Republicans in control of both Congress and the White House, conservative lawmakers will be well positioned to advance an ambitious reform agenda that will strengthen America’s families, fortify our national defense and create good-paying jobs. Amid the flurry of legislative activity that is sure to take place over the next several years, we need a man in Washington with a proven track record of success — someone who can champion Utah values and implement them in policy. We need a battle-hardened leader with demonstrated experience who can deliver meaningful results both for our state and our nation.

Time and again, Sen. Orrin Hatch has proven his ability to get the job done for Utah. Our senior senator is arguably the most effective sitting member of Congress, having passed more bills that have become law than any legislator alive today. From securing permanent tax relief for Utah’s families and leading the charge on education reform, to fixing our nation’s highways and negotiating critical trade legislation — time and again, Senator Hatch has proven his ability to pass meaningful reforms that directly benefit the Beehive State.

In bringing jobs to Utah, Senator Hatch is without equal. Indeed, he has done more than perhaps any other member of our congressional delegation to empower Utah’s entrepreneurs and bolster the very industries that drive our local economy. The hardworking men and women of Hill Air Force Base know this better than anyone. Senator Hatch was point man in the effort to bring the F-35 fighter jet to Hill — a historic decision that will not only strengthen our national defense but will also create tens of thousands of jobs right here in Utah. To help build an infrastructure that will sustain these jobs for decades to come, he also worked alongside the military and Utah-based businesses to secure $1.4 billion of private investment for the base.

When I was serving as a general in the United States Air Force, Senator Hatch had a reputation among my colleagues in the Pentagon as a no-nonsense legislator you could count on to deliver. He continues to live up to that reputation through his unwavering support of Hill Air Force Base and Utah’s military families.

Senator Hatch’s legislative accomplishments and his dedication to Utah are well known to families across our state; less known are the quiet acts of service he renders outside the public eye. Take, for example, his selfless behind-the scenes work to help foreigners facing serious visa problems. I am aware of several instances where foreign LDS general authorities were prevented from traveling to the United States for general conference because their visas were stalled in U.S. embassies overseas. Often such cases are time-sensitive and require action at the highest levels. But with one phone call to an ambassador, Senator Hatch can resolve these problems in an instant — and he has done so on a number of occasions.

I relate this example not to highlight the tremendous clout that Senator Hatch exercises even beyond our borders. Rather, I intend to illustrate a more important point: Whether in public or in private, Senator Hatch is always ready to serve. And I believe Utah would only benefit if he continued serving our state.

Thanks to his unique positions of authority, Senator Hatch has already done tremendous good for Utah. But were he to continue serving, the influence he could exercise beyond 2018 would be unparalleled:

As the chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, he would take the lead in reforming our tax code and repealing and replacing Obamacare with a patient-centered alternative that works for all Utahns.

As a key member of the Senate leadership team, he would have the ear of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and would play a pivotal role in setting the Republican agenda for the next several years;

And as a confidant of the president-elect, he would ensure that the policies of the new administration serve our interests and reflect Utah values.

I know Senator Hatch intended to retire at the end of his current term, but I sincerely hope he will reconsider. Far from slowing down, Senator Hatch is in his prime. And in the years to come, Utah will need him more than ever.

Gen. (retired) Robert C. Oaks, USAF, was commander of NATO Air Forces in Central Europe.