Rep. Elijah Cummings, the powerful House Democrat who represented Baltimore for more than two decades and was a vocal critic of President Trump, died early Thursday after battling health problems, his office said in a statement
Cummings, who was 68, died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, his hometown. As chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, he was one of the most powerful Democrats in Washington, and played a key role in the House Democrats’ ongoing efforts to impeach Trump.
“This is a terrible tragedy,” Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, tweeted. “Elijah is one of the most honest, thoughtful, decent people I ever met in politics. His moral compass was unfailing throughout his life in and out of politics. My deepest thanks to Elijah’s family for lending him to our country for all these years.”
FILE – In this April 2, 2019 file photo, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Elijah Cummings, D-Md., leads a meeting to call for subpoenas on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP)
Cummings has not returned to work after an undisclosed medical procedure that he said would only keep him away for about a week. The New York Times reported that Cummings was recently seen using a wheelchair with an oxygen tank. The paper reported that he had heart surgery in 2017 and had a bacterial infection in his knee.
In the House, Cummings built a substantial power base. At the time of his death, he was chairman of the influential House Oversight Committee and a leading voice in the Congressional Black Caucus. He played a key role in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Cummings was born on Jan. 18, 1951. In grade school, a counselor told Cummings he was too slow to learn and spoke poorly, and he would never fulfill his dream of becoming a lawyer.
“I was devastated,” Cummings told The Associated Press in 1996, shortly before he won his seat in Congress. “My whole life changed. I became very determined.”
Cummings, a sharecropper’s son and one of seven children, led multiple investigations of the president’s governmental dealings, including probes in 2019 relating to the president’s family members serving in the White House.
He clashed with Trump after the president criticized his district as a “rodent-infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.”
Cummings replied that government officials must stop making “hateful, incendiary comments” that only serve to divide and distract the nation from its real problems, including mass shootings and white supremacy.
“Those in the highest levels of the government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior,” Cummings said in a speech at the National Press Club.
The Associated Press contributed to this report