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December 09, 2020

Marylanders in Congress remember Sarbanes for his humility, work and service

Credit: Maryland Matters, Samantha Hawkins

Members of the Maryland congressional delegation and several other members of Congress gave tributes to former Maryland Sen. Paul Sarbanes on the Senate and House floors Tuesday evening in a Special Order Hour, remembering him for his strong principles and work ethnic.

Sarbanes (D) died Sunday at the age of 87.

Over his 40 year political career, Sarbanes was most well-known for being first to compose articles of impeachment against President Nixon and for the Sarbanes-Oxley act– the law that is credited with providing transparency and oversight for corporations after the Enron scandal.

“Transparency, accountability and ethics were the watchwords of Paul Sarbanes,” Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said on the House floor Tuesday night.

Sarbanes also was a champion for the Chesapeake Bay, affordable housing and protecting and enhancing civil rights, Hoyer said.

“He loved the state of Maryland, and especially the Chesapeake Bay,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said in his speech commemorating the late senator. “He took on the mantle of forging and strengthening the federal partnership to clean up his beloved Chesapeake Bay.”

Though leaders commemorated his signature legislation, they also spoke of personal relationships with Sarbanes — calling him their role model, mentor and friend.

“Paul Sarbanes was known as a senator’s senator,” Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) said. “For his integrity, for his commitment to public service, for his strong commitment to principles.”

On Tuesday morning, Sens. Van Hollen and Cardin submitted Senate Resolution 797 to honor Sarbanes’ life and achievements and express condolences to his family.

“He had an inherent integrity that was always strengthened by always striving to meet the expectations of all who put their confidence in him,” the late senator’s son, Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D-Md.), said. “In politics he was motivated by the burning conviction that every individual has dignity and the potential to succeed if given a fair shot.”

Rep. Sarbanes said that recently his father sat down to film 20 hours’ worth of oral history, during which he discussed his life and career. He recounted stories that he was proud of, from getting affordable housing for senior citizens in Baltimore to helping a rural post office on the Eastern Shore drop a discriminatory new policy.

“It really conveyed who he is and what he cares about,” Sarbanes said.

Sarbanes said he remembers one time that he came home and his dad was sitting in the living room, revved up about something. The elder Sarbanes banged on the side of the couch and said “I’m for the little guy, I’m for the little guy.”

“He might as well in that moment have been stating his purpose in public life,” John Sarbanes said. “That’s what motivated him from the moment he got up in the morning to the moment he went to bed at night.

Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) said that Paul Sarbanes was often credited with being the poorest member of the U.S. Senate.

“He was the poorest financially, but he knew what true wealth was. He knew what it meant to truly be happy,” Raskin said.

Raskin praised Sarbanes for putting his family first and loving the people that he served.

“Sen. Sarbanes was the first senator I ever had. He will always be, in my mind, the image of what a senator is,” Raskin said. “He thought that there was no greater honor than in being a public servant.”

Reps. David J. Trone (D-Md.), Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Andy Levin (D-Mich.) and Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.) also gave speeches honoring Sarbanes, along with Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.).

The Sarbanes family plans to hold a private service to follow COVID-19 guidelines.