As reported by the Associated Press and other news outlets, Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, died Thursday of complications from longstanding health problems. He was 68 years old. Cummings was a sharecropper’s son who rose to become a civil rights champion and the powerful chairman of one of the U.S. House committees leading an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.
As chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings often found himself at odds with President Trump. Cummings led investigations of the president’s governmental dealings, including probes in 2019 relating to Trump’s family members serving in the White House.
Cummings died at Gilchrist Hospice Care, a Johns Hopkins affiliate. As chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, he was one of the most powerful Democrats in Washington, and he has played a key role in the House Democrats’ ongoing efforts to impeach Trump.
Tributes poured in Thursday from lawmakers and others in politics on both sides of the aisle.
“I was shocked and saddened to learn the news this morning of my dear friend’s passing,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a fellow Maryland Democrat, said in a statement. “Elijah Cummings was a man of principle, patriotism, and conviction, whose loss will be deeply felt throughout the State of Maryland and our country.”
At the White House, the flag was lowered to half-staff. Despite Cummings and Trump often tossing unkind words at one another, the president had nothing but praise for the deceased congressman.
“My warmest condolences to the family and many friends of Congressman Elijah Cummings,” Trump tweeted. “I got to see first-hand the strength, passion and wisdom of this highly respected political leader. His work and voice on so many fronts will be very hard, if not impossible, to replace!”
Cummings Had “Longstanding” Health Issues
Cummings’ office said in a brief statement that he died “due to complications concerning longstanding health challenges.” Cummings had been in ill health the past few years, navigating the Capitol in a motorized cart and using a walker.
“He worked until his last breath because he believed our democracy was the highest and best expression of our collective humanity,” his wife, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, said Thursday.
Cummings did not return 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 had heart surgery in 2017 and had a bacterial infection in his knee.
However, Cummings had not been seen the past few weeks at closed-door interviews, alongside House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel. Yet, every subpoena, document request or statement which was issued on impeachment of late was done in the name of all three committee chairs. New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney is next in seniority to take over the gavel of the committee.
The committee postponed a planned hearing Thursday.