U.S. House Speaker and Baltimore native Nancy Pelosi mourned the death of Rep. Elijah Cummings during a Thursday morning news conference, calling the congressman a “north star” who lived the American dream.
Cummings died of longstanding health problems early Thursday morning, his office said. He was 68 years old.
The longtime Maryland representative was one of seven children of Robert Cummings Sr. and Ruth Elma Cummings, who were sharecroppers on land where their ancestors were enslaved. The couple moved to Baltimore in the late 1940s.
Pelosi, a Democrat, called Cummings her “brother in Baltimore” and recalled how he spoke with “unsurpassed clarity and moral integrity" on the House floor.
“We’ve all lost a friend," Pelosi said during the news conference. “I’m devastated by the loss."
Like Cummings, Pelosi grew up in Baltimore. Her father and brother both served as mayor decades ago.
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She conveyed her condolences to Cummings’ family and said the congressman “fought until the end."
The House Speaker previously tapped Cummings to lead various committees, including a controversial select committee to investigate the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead. Cummings also ascended to chair the House Oversight and Reform Committee, one of three panels overseeing the president’s impeachment inquiry.
Pelosi touted an idea floated Thursday that H.R. 3 — a bill titled the Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019 — be renamed for Cummings, who was a fierce advocate for lowering the price of prescription medications.
Cummings said he had just a single one-on-one conversation with the president in 2017 when both were working on plans to lower drug prices.
He recalled saying: “Mr. President, you’re now 70-something, I’m 60-something. Very soon you and I will be dancing with the angels. The thing that you and I need to do is figure out what we can do — what present can we bring to generations unborn?”
Pelosi later defended the late congressman in August when President Donald Trump tweeted that Cummings was a “brutal bully” and that his 7th District is a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”
Pelosi shot back at the president, calling Cummings “a champion in the Congress and the country for civil rights and economic justice."