Hatch contrasts Charlottesville and Houston: ‘The weaknesses and strengths of our great country’

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA Sen. Orrin Hatch, the president pro tempore of the United States Senate, spoke on the Senate floor Thursday about the lessons to be learned from current events and the need to come together as a legislative body for the good of the nation.

See video of speech in media player above

According to a press statement from Hatch’s office, in issuing a call for greater strength and solidarity in the Senate, he urged his colleagues to look to Houston as an example of what Americans can accomplish when they set aside their differences and unite in common cause. He said:

Now more than ever, we need strength and unity here in the Senate. The challenges we have before us are enormous. In the next few weeks alone, we need to secure emergency relief funding for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, raise the debt ceiling, fix our broken tax code and find a way forward on immigration reform. And our to-do list just keeps growing.

Each of these items taken on its own is challenging; taken as a whole, our agenda is daunting. But I truly believe we are up to the task. I truly believe we can step up to the plate – just as the people of Texas did – to tackle the challenges before us.

Hatch spoke on the recent events in Charlottesville, calling it “a gut-check moment for all Americans” and “a national low point that demanded all of us to take stock of where we are as a society and where our rhetoric is taking us.”

Hatch contrasted the violence in Charlottesville with the heroism in Houston, sharing stories that “remind us of the hope and humanity borne of tragedy.” He also emphasized that “in moments of crisis, our capacity to come together for the good of our communities is unparalleled.”

The full speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:

Mr. President, before we adjourned for recess, I came to this lectern to issue a call for comity, cooperation and compromise. My message that day was simple: If we are serious about legislating — if we are truly committed to doing the work the American people sent us here to do — then we must look beyond the horizon of our differences to find common ground.

Since January, this Congress has been its own worst enemy. It has been mired in a muck of its own making, bogged down by partisan squabbles and gripped by gridlock — the likes of which I have never seen in all my years of public service. I wish I could say the situation across the country is better. But sadly, it isn’t. The polarization we see here in the Senate is only indicative of the division we see all around the nation. The events of August threw that division into sharp relief. But they also showed us our ability to heal — our remarkable capacity to lay aside superficial differences in moments of crisis to come together as one.

In Charlottesville and Houston, August brought us a tale of two cities—one that showed us, at once, both the weaknesses and strengths of our great country.

In Charlottesville, we saw the worst of America on full display. In the violence, vitriol and vulgar racism of Nazi demonstrators, we stared evil in the face. And in the terrorist attack that ensued, we saw the ideology of hatred brought to its logical endpoint.

None of us will soon forget this attack on innocent civilians. Through the stagnant humid air of that hot summer’s day, we caught a glimpse of the darkness buried deep in the soul of America.

Mr. President, Charlottesville was more than a tragic event; it was a gut-check moment for all Americans. It was a national low point that demanded all of us to take stock of where we are as a society and where our rhetoric is taking us.

The men who perpetrated this horrific act of violence – whether by their words or by their actions — represent the dregs of a dying culture. But if the violence in Charlottesville showed America at its worst, then the rescue and recovery efforts in hurricane-ravaged Houston showed our country at its best.

Just two weeks after the brutality in Charlottesville, our nation again watched in horror as Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, unleashing a flood of biblical proportions. Relentless rainfall battered the coast for days, leaving in its wake a trail of destruction and shattered life. Harvey left behind unprecedented devastation. But it also gave us countless stories of hope and heroism.

On national TV, we saw a weatherman rushing to the aid of a stranded driver, pulling the man to safety before the current could take him away;

We saw everyday Texans wade into neck-deep waters to form a human chain, saving the life of a stranger trapped in his car;

We watched as three teenage boys navigated the streets of Houston in a fishing boat, driving from house to house to rescue their neighbors as the floodwaters poured in.

Mr. President, these are just a few stories among thousands more. These stories remind us of the hope and humanity borne of tragedy. They bear testament to the innate goodness of the American people. And they show us that, in moments of crisis, our capacity to come together for the good of our communities is unparalleled.

Tragedies like those in Houston strip us of all that is superfluous, leaving behind only our common humanity.  In the moments of peril that moved tens of thousands of Texans to band together to save their city, considerations of race, religion, class or creed fell into complete irrelevance. The first responders, volunteers and Good Samaritans who put their own lives at risk to rescue others served indiscriminately. They took no thought for who they were helping — what their background or beliefs were. Houston’s heroes saw only lives that needed saving — and they went to work.

Mr. President, if there’s any good to come of tragedy, it’s that for a brief but beautiful moment, we are able to see each other as we truly are — not as Republicans or Democrats, rich or poor, black or white, but as members of the same community, partakers of the same human condition, and children of the same God. Mr. President, for a brief moment, we are able to see each other as Americans.

I pray that the hope of Houston may inspire all of us here in the Senate. I pray that we may look to the city’s example in the work we have before us, setting aside our petty partisan differences to come together for the good of the nation. I pray that, as Senators, we might see each other as friends and equals, partners and patriots anxiously engaged in the important work of legislating. And I pray that we can esteem each other by our mutual love for this great country, not by the R or D that follow our names.

Now more than ever, we need strength and unity here in the Senate. The challenges we have before us are enormous. In the next few weeks alone, we need to secure emergency relief funding for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, raise the debt ceiling, fix our broken tax code and find a way forward on immigration reform. And our to-do list just keeps growing.

Each of these items taken on its own is challenging; taken as a whole, our agenda is daunting. But I truly believe we are up to the task. I truly believe we can step up to the plate — just as the people of Texas did — to tackle the challenges before us.

As I said before we broke for recess, the Senate is capable of so much more. I know because I’ve seen the Senate at its best. I’ve seen the Senate when it truly lived up to its reputation as the world’s greatest deliberative body.

I believe we can again see this body at its best. Mr. President, my central message today is simple: We can do hard things. I know because we’ve done them before. So let’s make laws, not excuses. Let’s move forward on an agenda that puts the needs of America’s families front and center.

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3 Comments

  • utahdiablo September 7, 2017 at 8:44 pm

    “Hatch contrasts Charlottesville and Houston”….didn’t see anyone protesting and tearing down civil war statues during the 8 years of Obama, or 8 years of Bush, or 8 years of Clinton, 8 years of the elder Bush, or 8 years of Reagan….So all of a sudden there is a problem?….. BS…Geroge Soros paid protesters trying to tear apart America by any means possible

    • bikeandfish September 8, 2017 at 12:08 am

      First, very few statues have been torn down during protests. I can only think of the Durham one; a few others have been significantly defaced. The vast majority, at least dozens in the last 2 years, have been removed by democratic means at the local and state level.

      You ask about the timeframe and there is a clear answer: the mass murder and domestic terrorism by Dylann Roof at a largely black church. It didn’t happen until 2015 which started the most persistent removal of confederate statues in our time. Dylann was a white supremacist that was fascinated with the confederacy and its symbols, as is common with white nationalist and white supremacist. Then white supremacist and neo-nazis began taking up the cause of confederate statues as they clearly represented their ideology; most were erected decades after the Civil War ended during the era Jim Crow laws were being implemented and then again when the Civil Rights movement was gaining steam.

      Your question is answered clearly and accurately. There is no proof of a George Soros conspiracy regarding the removal of confederate statues.

      I applaud Hatch’s statements. I don’t have to agree with all of his policies but I think he stated a sincere condemnation of the violence in Charlottsville and recognizes how the best of the Harvey rescue can be harnessed for the entire nation.

    • Chris September 8, 2017 at 10:23 am

      ” 8 years of the elder Bush” LOL, not only are you delusional, but you can’t count.

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