US longest-serving Republican senator to retire

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U.S. longest-serving Republican senator Orrin Hatch on Tuesday announced that he will retire at the end of his term in January, 2019 after serving in the Senate for more than 40 years.

It is widely thought that his retirement could clear the path for former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, though it is unclear whether Romney will jump back into the political arena.

In a video posted to Twitter, the 83-year-old Utah senator said he was "deeply grateful" to serve as a senator, saying he has "always been a fighter" and now is looking forward to spending more time with family.

"When the president visited Utah last month, he said I was a fighter. I've always been a fighter. I was an amateur boxer in my youth, and I brought that fighting spirit with me to Washington. But every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves." said Hatch in the video.

The powerful Senate Finance Committee chairman played a significant role in helping Republicans pass a major tax overhaul before Christmas. He is also the second-longest serving senator in the U.S. history.

His decision comes after The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah's largest newspaper, published a scathing Christmas Day editorial calling on him to leave the seat.

Local media said U.S. President Donald Trump had lobbied Hatch to stay in the Senate in a bid to block Romney from running. Romney, a Mormon with strong ties to Utah, called Trump a "phony" and a "fraud" during the 2016 election.

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