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Sen. Orrin Hatch goes off on colleague during tax reform debate

FILE - In this April 23, 2016, file photo, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, speaks during the Utah Republican Party 2016 nominating convention in Salt Lake City.
FILE - In this April 23, 2016, file photo, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, speaks during the Utah Republican Party 2016 nominating convention in Salt Lake City.
Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Hours after calling for civility, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, unloaded on a Democratic colleague Thursday during Senate Finance Committee debate on tax reform.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, touched off Hatch's fist-pounding, gavel-banging rant when he said that the bill provides a tax cut that’s "not really for the middle class. It’s for the rich."

Hatch, the committee chairman, shot back, saying he "comes from the poor people" and that the cuts aren't for the wealthy.

“I’ve been here working my whole stinking career for people who don’t have a chance," he said. "And I really resent anybody who says I’m just doing this for the rich. Give me a break."

The heated exchange came as the Finance Committee passed the tax bill 14-12 along party lines late Thursday.

Hatch went on to say, "You guys just overplay that all the time, and it gets old. Frankly, you ought to quit. I get kind of sick and tired of it. … It’s a nice political play, but it’s not true.”

Brown fired back, saying he gets “sick and tired of the richest people in this country getting richer and richer.”

The two senators continued to talk over each other as another senator tried to restore order.

"Wait just a second," Hatch said, repeatedly banging the gavel.

"Listen, I’ve honored you by allowing you to spout off here, but what you said was not right. … I come from the lower-middle class originally. We didn’t have anything. So don’t spew that stuff on me. I get real tired of that crap," Hatch said, raising his voice.

If Republicans and Democrats worked together, he said, they could "pull this country out of the mess it's in," including things Brown wants.

"Let's start with CHIP," Brown interjected, referring to the Children’s Health Insurance Program that Congress failed to reauthorize last month.

Hatch replied that he's not starting with CHIP.

"I’ve got more bills passed than everybody on this committee put together, and they’ve been passed for the benefit of people in this country," he said.

“And now all I can say, I like you personally very much, but this bullcrap you guys throw out here really gets old after a while. And to do it right at the end of this, it’s just not right."

Hatch concluded saying, "It takes a lot to get me worked up like this."

He opened the hearing calling for respect and saying he didn't begrudge anyone for holding a passionate viewpoint. Committee members, Hatch said, were free to disagree, but no one should interrupt or impugn their colleagues' motives.

"In my opinion, we saw quite a bit of that, and some of it was pretty inflammatory," he said, referring to previous hearings on the tax bill. "As for myself, I can take it."

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said the rancor displayed in the Finance Committee hearings could spill over to the Senate floor. The full Senate is expected to debate the bill after the Thanksgiving break.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we saw some of that. I don't think there's any reason why it has to be the case, but it often is with respect to a bill as closely followed and hotly contested as this one is," he said on KSL Newsradio's "The Doug Wright Show."

Sometimes tempers flare when lawmakers have differences of opinion and work long hours to get a bill passed, Lee said.