Republican Senator Orrin Hatch to not seek re-election

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said on Tuesday he will not seek re-election in November, opening the door to a potential Senate bid by Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential candidate and who has been one of the party's harshest critics of President Donald Trump.

"Every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. And for me, that time is soon approaching," Hatch said in a video statement posted on Twitter. "That's why after much prayer and discussion with family and friends, I've decided to retire at the end of this term."

Hatch, 83, of Utah, is the most senior Republican in the U.S. Senate, having first been elected in 1976. He is chairman of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee.

Watch Hatch's full announcement in the video below:

Hatch steps down amid speculation that Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who ran against Democratic President Barack Obama in 2012, would run for his Senate seat. Romney, who is a Mormon, has close ties to Utah, a state with a majority-Mormon population.

Trump said last month he wanted Hatch to run for another six-year Senate term in 2018, in a slap at Romney, who was one of Trump's harshest Republican critics during the 2016 presidential campaign.

"The president, certainly, has the greatest and deepest amount of respect for Senator Hatch and his over four decades of experience in the Senate," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters on Tuesday. "The president certainly praises his service and is very sad to see Senator Hatch leave."

A close Romney adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Hatch's decision increased the odds that Romney would consider jumping in, saying that Romney would likely decide relatively soon whether to seek the Senate seat.

(Reporting by Makini Brice and Steve Holland; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Leslie Adler)

RELATED: Congressional lawmakers not seeking re-election come 2018

29 PHOTOS
Congressional lawmakers not seeking re-election come 2018
See Gallery
Congressional lawmakers not seeking re-election come 2018
Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA) 
Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC)
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)
U.S. Republican Representative Darrell Issa
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-CA)
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA)
Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA)

Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kansas)

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) 

Rep. Dave Trott (R-Mich.)
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)

Rep. John 'Jimmy' Duncan (R-Tenn.)

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota)

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) 

(Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas)

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) 

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Washington)

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-New Mexico)

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio)

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX)
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)
Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX)
Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-New Jersey

Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Florida

Photo Credit: Getty 

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.