Congress mourns Elijah Cummings, veteran lawmaker and civil rights advocate

Congress mourns Elijah Cummings, veteran lawmaker and civil rights advocate


And veteran Congressman Elijah Cummings of
Maryland died early today after longstanding
health problems.
The Baltimore Democrat was a highly regarded
figure in both political parties and had been
playing a central role in the impeachment
inquiry.
Amna Nawaz looks at his life and career.
AMNA NAWAZ: Elijah Cummings spent a lifetime
advocating for civil rights in his native
Baltimore and beyond.
After 13 years in the Maryland Statehouse,
he came to Congress in 1996.
REP.
ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): My mission is one
that comes out of a vision that was created
long, long ago.
It is a mission and a vision to empower people,
to make people realize that the power is within
them, that they too can do the things that
they want to do.
AMNA NAWAZ: Cummings pursued that vision as
a vocal advocate for causes ranging from gun
reform to immigration, and always racial justice.
In 2015, he worked to restore calm when riots
erupted in Baltimore after the death of Freddie
Gray, a young black man, in police custody.
And at Gray’s funeral, he gave an impassioned
eulogy.
REP.
ELIJAH CUMMINGS: I have often said that our
children are the living messages we send to
a future we will never see.
But now our children are sending us to a future
they will never see!
There is something is wrong with that picture!
AMNA NAWAZ: This year, Cummings was equally
fierce condemning the conditions in which
migrant children were being detained at the
U.S.-Mexico border.
REP.
ELIJAH CUMMINGS: We are the United States
of America.
We are the greatest country in the world.
We are the ones that can go anywhere in the
world and save people, make sure that they
have diapers, make sure that they have toothbrushes,
make sure that they’re not laying around defecating.
Come on.
We’re better than that.
AMNA NAWAZ: As chairman of the House Oversight
Committee, Cummings also launched investigations
of President Trump.
The president struck back, calling Cummings
racist and branding Baltimore a rat-infested
mess.
Today, Mr. Trump tweeted condolences, saying
— quote — “His work and voice on so many
fronts will be very hard, if not impossible,
to replace.”
In Congress, Cummings’ colleagues paid tribute,
including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
REP.
NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): In the Congress, Elijah
was considered a North Star.
He was a leader of towering character and
integrity.
He lived the American dream.
And he wanted it for everyone else.
AMNA NAWAZ: That sentiment crossed the political
aisle to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
SEN.
MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): He counted close friends
and admirers from all across the political
spectrum.
AMNA NAWAZ: Cummings’ death deprives House
Democrats of a leading voice in the impeachment
inquiry.
But he left behind a legacy of clear-eyed
views on Congress’ duty.
REP.
ELIJAH CUMMINGS: When we’re dancing with the
angels, the question will be asked, in 2019,
what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy
intact?
Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?
AMNA NAWAZ: For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Amna
Nawaz.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman Elijah Cummings
was 68 years old.

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