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Rep. Elijah Cummings: House observes moment of silence

In this Aug. 7, 2019, photo, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., speaks during a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington. U.S. Rep. Cummings has died from complications of longtime health challenges, his office said in a statement on Oct. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

BALTIMORE, MD (AP) — The House has observed a moment of silence in honor of Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, who died Thursday at the age of 68.

Rep. Cummings died at Johns Hopkins Hospital due to complications from longstanding health challenges, his congressional office said.

A sharecropper’s son, Cummings became the powerful chairman of a U.S. House committee that investigated President Donald Trump, and was a formidable orator who passionately advocated for the poor in his district that encompassed a large portion of Baltimore.

As chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings led multiple investigations into Trump’s governmental dealings. The investigations angered the president, who criticized the congressman’s district in 2019 as a “rodent-infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.”

Cummings responded that government officials must stop making “hateful, incendiary comments” that only serve to divide and distract the nation from its real problems.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a fellow Maryland Democrat, said Cummings was a quiet man who did not seek the limelight but “was not afraid to step out into the arena and fight hard for the causes in which he believed strongly.”

Hoyer said those causes include justice, equality, opportunity, civil rights, education and children. Cummings liked to say that “children are the message we send to a future we will never see.”

Hoyer said Cummings, of Baltimore, was beloved by his constituents and his congressional colleagues alike.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., called Cummings “a respected adversary” and said he was tough but fair.

Former President Barack Obama is praising Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings for his principled stands and pursuit of truth, justice and reconciliation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls the late Baltimore lawmaker “a voice of unsurpassed moral clarity and truth.”

But it’s not just Democrats who are mourning Cummings after his death Thursday at age 68.
Republicans hailed Cummings as a statesman who reached across the aisle and made rare bipartisan friendships in an era of intense political polarization.

Trump called Cummings “a highly respected political leader” while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was a legend who won close friends and admirers from across the political spectrum.

North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, one of the most conservative members of Congress, said he was “heartbroken.”

The American flag is flying at half-staff over the White House and Speaker Nancy Pelosi has ordered flags at the U.S. Capitol to be lowered as well in honor of Rep. Elijah Cummings, the powerful House oversight chairman who died Thursday at age 68.

Pelosi says she’s also naming legislation to lower prescription drug prices for Cummings.

She grew up in Cummings’ Maryland district, told reporters at her weekly press conference that she is “devastated” by the death of her “brother in Baltimore.”

She added that Cummings “lived the American dream and he wanted it for everyone else.”