Powerful Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings dies
Maryland Representative Elijah E. Cummings, a sharecropper’s son who rose to become a civil-rights champion and the chairman of one of the United States (US) House committees leading an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, died Thursday of complications from long-standing health problems. He was 68.
Cummings was a formidable orator who advocated for the poor in his black-majority district, which encompasses a large portion of Baltimore and more well-to-do suburbs.
As chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings led investigations of the president’s governmental dealings, including probes in 2019 relating to Trump’s family members serving in the White House.
Trump criticised the Democrat’s district as a “rodent-infested mess” where “no human being would want to live”. The comments came weeks after Trump drew bipartisan condemnation following his calls for Democratic congresswomen of colour to get out of the US “right now” and go back to their “broken and crime-infested countries”.
On Thursday morning, Trump tweeted his “condolences to the family and many friends of Congressman Elijah Cummings”. The tweet continued: “I got to see first hand the strength, passion and wisdom of this highly respected political leader.” The brief tweet made no reference to past feuds.
Cummings’ long career spanned decades in Maryland politics. He rose through the ranks of the Maryland House of Delegates before winning his congressional seat in a special election in 1996 to replace former Representative Kweisi Mfume, who left the seat to lead the NAACP.
Cummings was an early supporter of Barack Obama’s presidential bid in 2008. By 2016, Cummings was the senior Democrat on the House Benghazi Committee, which he said was “nothing more than a taxpayer-funded effort to bring harm to Hillary Clinton’s campaign”.
Throughout his career, Cummings used his fiery voice to highlight the struggles and needs of inner-city residents. He believed in much-debated approaches to help the poor and addicted, such as needle-exchange programmes as a way to reduce the spread of AIDS.
A key figure in the Trump impeachment inquiry, Cummings had been hoping to return to Congress after a medical procedure he said would only keep him away for a week. His statement then didn’t detail the procedure. He’d previously been treated for heart and knee issues.