It was a good bet that speaking kindly about the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) would garner boos from the conservative crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). But that didn't stop Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch from staunchly defending his vote for the measure Friday as he address conference goers.
Following a speech from his new Utah colleague Sen. Mike Lee, Hatch took to the podium to try and gain favor from the conservative group as he faces a potential GOP primary challenge in 2012.
At one point, Hatch pledged his willingness to become the "most hated man in this Godforsaken city to save this country":
But when the audience peppered the Senator with questions, the subject of his vote in support of TARP bailouts could not be avoided. When pressed, Hatch offered an apology, but also defended his vote, claiming it was the right thing to do. “All I can say is, there aren’t many people who will say I’m sorry. I’m one who will,” he said.
"You may disagree, but you're not sitting there having to make these decisions. I probably made a mistake voting for it," Hatch said, emphasizing that he did not support every provision included in the bill. "At the time, we were in real trouble and it looked like we were ready for a depression," he continued. "I believe we would have gone into a depression."
Hatch's response was met by loud heckling and boos as he pleaded with the crowd to let him continue. A conference moderator was forced to scold the audience for the lack of civility. After he offered his complete defense, some supporters vigorously applauded him.
"I need your help," Hatch told the audience. The Utah Senator has pitched a balanced budget amendment and promised to shepherd it through the legislative process, but admitted he could not do it alone.
"I intend to get reelected in 2012," Hatch said. "I guarantee to you that I'll do everything under my power to get this mess under control."