WASHINGTON -- Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) came out swinging against Democrats Friday, telling a room of conservative lawyers that Republicans were ready to give the other party "a taste of their own medicine."
"Frankly, I intend to win with our candidate for the presidency in 2016, and we will give them a taste of their own medicine," said Hatch. "And we're going to win. We're going to win. These next two years are extremely important. Maybe the most important two years in our history."
Hatch delivered his remarks at the Federalist Society's annual conference in downtown Washington, D.C., Friday afternoon. He also said he is in favor of keeping current filibuster reforms in place, even though he protested when Democrats changed those rules last year. The new system requires just 51 votes to advance most nominees, instead of the 60 votes that were previously required. Democrats will not have 51 members in the new Senate. Republicans also have an incentive to keep the new rules in place in anticipation of success in 2016: If they win the presidency and maintain control of the Senate, they would have an easier time confirming their nominees.
"We should not return to the old rule. We should teach those blunderheads that they made a big mistake. And we have the votes to stop bad judges if we want to," he said.
Hatch's present enthusiasm for the 51-vote rule contrasts with his stance before the election, when it wasn't clear whether Republicans would remain in the minority next year. In September, he told Politico that Congress "should get it back to where it was."
Hatch also drew laughs from the crowd when he made fun of the left for using the term "progressive."
"I get a big kick out of them using the word 'progressive,'" he said. "My gosh, they're just straight old dumbass liberals anyway."
Hatch reiterated his desire to repeal Obamacare "root and branch" and expressed concern that President Barack Obama may soon take executive action on immigration and protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.
"It would be catastrophic for him to do that," said Hatch. "Part of it is our fault. We haven't really seized this problem. Of course, we haven't been in a position to do it either, with Democrats controlling the Senate. I'm not blaming Republicans. But we really haven't seized that problem and found solutions for it."
The Republican caucus is divided on how to respond to such executive action by the president, with the GOP leadership worried that some more conservative members may force a government shutdown unless the president gives in. Hatch didn't weigh in specifically on that course of action but did seem skeptical earlier in his speech, saying that the Republican Party must "offer solutions, not shutdowns." He also suggested that Republicans would be willing to cooperate with Democrats on immigration legislation.
"Frankly, I'd like to see immigration done the right way," Hatch added. "This president is prone to doing through executive order that which he cannot do by working with the Congress, because he won't work with us. If he worked with us, I think we could get an immigration bill through ... He has a Republican Congress that's willing to work with him. That's the thing that's pretty interesting to me."
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