Capitol Hill on Thursday was mourning the unexpected death of Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, as lawmakers in both parties saluted the veteran Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, who died early this morning at a hospice facility in his home town of Baltimore.
"The Congress and the nation have lost one of the great ones," said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA).
"This is a heartbreaking loss for Baltimore, Congress, and our entire country," said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL).
"Elijah Cummings was a good friend and a powerful advocate for what he believed," said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO).
In a statement released by aides to Cummings, his staff gave few details on his health troubles, saying that Cummings had died around 2:30 am on Thursday, in a hospice care facility, where the Maryland Democrat had been treated for "longstanding health challenges."
First elected to Congress in 1966, Cummings had in recent years become the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, sparring first with Republican investigations of the Obama Administration, and then taking the lead on investigations of President Trump and his administration.
Elijah Cummings refused to be told what he could become or where his dreams might end. He refused to accept injustice in his community or inequality in his country. His towering presence will be missed but his legacy will live on with us all. https://t.co/HOVLcwjATh— Rep. Joe Kennedy III (@RepJoeKennedy) October 17, 2019
Rep. Cummings: Those in the highest levels of the government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior. It only creates more division among us and severely limits our ability to work together for the common good.pic.twitter.com/5KDP8TbL9N— CSPAN (@cspan) October 17, 2019
It had been obvious to reporters in recent months that Cummings was facing some sort of health challenge, as he was using a wheelchair in the halls of Congress, and then a walker to make his way on to the floor of the House.
But in interviews with reporters in the Speaker's Lobby just off the House floor, his voice still seemed strong, and gave no hint of immediate medical troubles.
"We're going to uphold the rule of law," Cummings told me and other reporters in mid-May, as he outlined efforts to get information from the White House, which were routinely stonewalled by the Trump Administration.
Cummings had returned after Labor Day, but had missed most votes after mid-September.
Earlier this year, Cummings had drawn the ire of President Trump over investigations of the White House, as Mr. Trump called the Maryland Democrat a racist.
“His loss will be felt across our country,” said Rep. Chrissy Houlihan (D-PA).
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