Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy, 2006

Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) in 2006, at the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. (Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images)

By David Gura

A few moments ago, NPR's Melissa Block spoke with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a close friend and ally of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA). Although they were of different political parties, the two senators worked together on many pieces of major legislation.

"It couldn't have been done if he didn't have an open mind, if he hadn't been able to work with me, and if I hadn't been able to work with him," Hatch said. "We found a lot of common ground in the health care area, among others, and we passed, I think, most of the health care legislation that really works in this country."

Hatch said that, even when their debates were especially heated, or floor arguments pitted them against each other, they remained good friends:

There were many times when we got really irritated with each other, and we really got to the point of yelling at each other, and yet, at the end, he always came off that high horse, and I had to come off my high horse, and we'd always get together and start laughing about how stupid we were.

Hatch told Block that he and Kennedy met more than 30 years ago, when they sat on the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee. At the time, Hatch chaired the committee. Frustrated by the ideological imbalance of its membership, he approached Kennedy for help.

In the last few years, Hatch -- who is known as a hobbyist songwriter -- penned two songs for Kennedy: "Souls Along The Way," about Kennedy's relationship with his widow, Vicki Kennedy; and "Headed Home," which Tony Middleton performed:

Block asked Hatch if he had the chance to say "goodbye" to Kennedy. Hatch said he saw him a few months back, and although both of them knew that Kennedy was nearing the end of his life, neither of them spoke about death:

"All I can say is that I walked out of there very emotional," Hatch said. "I'm very emotional right now. The man was a great man."

His family, they've given so much to this country. I love Ted Kennedy. I love Vicki Kennedy. And I love that whole family, and I just want everybody to know that they need to be revered. That's a family that's given a great deal to this country, and they deserve a lot of credit.

The rest of Block's interview will air on All Things Considered tonight.

categories: Politics

2:25 - August 26, 2009