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First up, Bernie Sanders vs. Lindsey Graham: How Orrin Hatch, Ted Kennedy friendship is inspiring new debates

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Sens. Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy during an interview with the Deseret News.

Sens. Orrin Hatch, left, and Ted Kennedy are pictured during an interview with the Deseret News in January 1990.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

Although they have passed on, the legacy of cooperation between conservative Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch and liberal Sen. Ted Kennedy continues in a new partnership.

The Orrin G. Hatch Foundation and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute have teamed up with the Bipartisan Policy Center to sponsor a series of policy debates, including one in Utah. The first one, featuring Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., will be held in June.

The goal of what’s called The Senate Project is for the public to hear leading senators from competing ends of the political spectrum. The Oxford-style format of the 60-minute debates will allow senators to engage in extended, thoughtful, wide-ranging debates while exploring areas of constructive disagreement and searching for bipartisan compromise, according to the Hatch Foundation.

“All too often, network programming — whether on television or online — sows division and contempt among viewers by exaggerating the differences between us. But The Senate Project seeks to do the exact opposite,” said Hatch Foundation executive director Matt Sandgren, noting Hatch and Kennedy were political opposites but best friends.

“Our hope is to show that bipartisanship and vigorous debate can coexist — and that civility is still possible, even in today’s hyperpolarized world.”

The idea for the project came in response to the most serious division in the country in decades, said Bruce A. Percelay, chairman of the board of the Kennedy Institute.

“It is our hope that this effort will help demonstrate that compromise in the U.S. Senate is actually possible,” he said.

The debate between Graham and Sanders is scheduled for June 13. Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier will moderate the debate, which will be held in the Kennedy Institute’s full-size replica of the U.S. Senate Chamber and streamed on Fox Nation.

The second debate, hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center, will be held in July at George Washington University, carried live and on demand across C-SPAN platforms, and streamed on C-SPAN Now. Participants have not been announced.

A third debate will be hosted by the Hatch Foundation in Utah this fall.

“Our democracy rests on the ability to engage and resolve legitimate differences,” said Bipartisan Policy Center President Jason Grumet. “The Senate Project highlights the creativity and courage required to govern a divided nation.”