Washington (CNN) - Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch fended off boos at the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday when it came to his 2008 vote for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
In a question-and-answer session, an attendee asked Hatch, who is seeking reelection and will likely face a Tea Party-backed challenger, how he can call himself a conservative in light of the massive bank bailout he supported.
The question drew rousing applause and soon boos as Hatch defended his vote.
"At the time we were in real trouble," Hatch said to a crowd that was having none of it. "Heading for a depression."
Hatch reminded the crowd that the legislation was strongly supported by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.
"I'll probably say I made a mistake voting for it," said Hatch. "I haven't made many mistakes in my Senate career and if you look at my record, you'll see that."
"What I hated about that bill, is that it didn't turn out to be what the Treasury Secretary said it would be," Hatch added.
Still, Hatch said if he was the "51st vote" to stem off a depression, he would gladly do it again, a comment that drew reluctant applause.
"I'm prepared to be the most hated man in this godforsaken city, in order to save this country, but I need your help," Hatch said.
The annual conference is attended by some 11,000 conservative activists and has become an early testing ground for potential GOP presidential candidates.