Sen. Paul Sarbanes (search) of Maryland fainted Monday while attending a funeral for former Rep. Peter W. Rodino Jr., a colleague during the Watergate investigation.

Sarbanes, a 72-year-old Democrat, briefly passed out toward the end of the service, and had to be helped from the church by first-aid workers.

"He had been standing for a while. He felt faint, he sat down, and had a brief fainting spell," his spokesman, Jesse Jacobs, said from Washington about an hour after the incident. "We just got off the phone with him. He's alert and joking."

Sarbanes was in good condition at University Hospital on Monday, said hospital spokesman Rogers Ramsey.

Sarbanes, who is in his fifth term, is Maryland's longest-serving U.S. senator.

He serves on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, and is best known in recent years for helping write the Sarbanes-Oxley act which cracked down on corporate crime.

In 1970, he was elected to the House of Representatives, the first of three terms before moving on to the Senate. In 1974, Sarbanes was selected by his Democratic colleagues on the House Watergate Committee (search) to introduce the first Article of Impeachment, for obstruction of justice, against President Nixon.

Rodino died May 7 of congestive heart failure. He was 95.

In Washington, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada referred to Sarbanes' illness when the Senate convened Monday.

"I am confident he will be OK," Reid said. "Everyone who's part of the Senate family should give their thoughts and prayers to Sen. Sarbanes."