Shortly after the Senate convened Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, was elected president pro tem, the Constitutional post that puts in line for the presidency behind the vice president and the speaker of the House. The position comes with a security detail and an ornate office on the first floor of the Capitol, vacated by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt.
“You get a beautiful office. I left it in perfect condition with one exception: I cleaned out the liquor cabinet. … I knew you wouldn’t need that,” Leahy joked at a Tuesday afternoon reception for Hatch, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The longest serving member of the majority party has held the role of president pro tem under a Senate tradition that dates back to 1890. Hatch was first elected to the Senate in 1976, arriving two years after Leahy.
Hatch aides say he is planning to be active in trying to bring back the Senate’s sense of debate. Asked about the new position, Hatch sought to dismiss the idea that the post is purely an honorarium.
“I know one thing. It’s not ceremonial. It’s a very important role. You know, you’re a member of leadership and I’m part of the leadership team,” Hatch said. “Not that they ignored me before, but it just gives you a place at the table … in every decision.”