WASHINGTON – Maryland lawmakers mourned the loss of George Herbert Walker Bush Tuesday, commending the 41st president as a decent man who bravely served his country.
Bush, 94, died Nov. 30 at his home in Houston. His body will lie in state in the United States Capitol Rotunda until Wednesday, when a state funeral service is held at Washington National Cathedral.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, said in a tweet Tuesday that he had told reporters earlier that Bush “is the quintessential example of what those of us in public service ought to be.”
“He respected our institutions, practiced civility, expected courtesy and gave it to others,” said Hoyer, who is expected to be elected the House majority leader next month.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, said then-Vice President Bush made a memorable trip to Annapolis when Cardin was speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates.
Cardin told Capital News Service in an interview legislators gave Bush a tie during his visit, and he immediately put it on, giving Cardin the tie he had been wearing.
Bush also spent some time in Cardin’s office that day and left him kind, handwritten notes, the senator said.
“He really tried to engage people,” Cardin said. “And clearly, when he came to Annapolis, he really did.”
Cardin said that after he was elected to Congress and came to Washington, Bush was vice president for two more years before he was elected president in 1988.
Bush was a personable man who was always willing to listen, Cardin said. He added that he was a great statesman both before and after he led the country.
“He showed respect for the office as president, and respect for the office as a former president,” Cardin said.
Both Cardin and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, said they would attend Wednesday’s service at the cathedral.
Van Hollen said Bush’s passing is a reminder of a more civil time in politics.
“You can disagree vigorously, you can have tough campaigns, but at the end of the day it’s important for people to reach out and try to unite the country around common goals and aspirations,” Van Hollen told CNS. “President Bush did that.”
Van Hollen also commended Bush for making hard choices, like a budget deal that reduced the deficit but raised taxes. It lost him support among Republicans and many historians believed it cost him a second term in the White House.
“He was very willing to do the right thing for the country, even if it was not the most popular thing to do,” Van Hollen said.
Members of the House also eulogized the 41st president and offered condolences to the Bush family.
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Timonium, called Bush “a master negotiator” who was successful because he believed in compromise.
“’When the word moderation becomes a dirty word, we have some soul searching to do,’ George H.W. Bush once said,” Ruppersberger said in a statement. “All lawmakers and all Americans can learn from his example.”
Outgoing Rep. John Delaney, D-Potomac, said the country needed more leaders like Bush.
“President Bush believed in more than just himself and more than just his party — he believed passionately in America’s moral purpose and in principle,” said Delaney, who is running for president. “The country he loved was better off because of his service, leadership and example.”
Delaney added that Bush was “an international statesman and compassionate spirit” and praised his career as a decorated Navy pilot.
Rep.-elect David Trone, D-Potomac, released a statement Tuesday saying Bush’s “service to country, his civility to others, and his commitment to family are testimony to an extraordinary and remarkable life well lived.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, released a a statement Saturday commending Bush for his tireless work to make the world a better place.
“A World War II hero, he spent 40 years serving his country in various leadership positions, including U.S. congressman, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and director of the CIA,” Cummings said. “He was an honorable statesman who pledged as president to make the United States a ‘kinder, gentler’ nation.”
Bush’s remains will be returned to St. Martin’s Episcopal Church for a Thursday funeral before being buried at his presidential library on the Texas A&M University grounds.
Bush will be buried in a family plot next to his wife, Barbara Bush, who died in April, and their 3-year-old daughter, Robin, who died in 1953 from leukemia.