The late Elijah Cummings, the powerful and long-serving Baltimore congressman who rose to chair the House Oversight Committee, was honored at a dignitary-packed funeral Friday where eulogies praised his mastery of Congress and commitment to constituents — but also took a political turn with implicit swipes at the Trump administration.
Cummings died last week due to complications from “longstanding health challenges,” his office said. He was 68.
The funeral brought out past presidents, a day after he was honored at the U.S. Capitol.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the Democratic lawmaker as a “great man, moral leader, and a friend,” while comparing him to the Old Testament prophet of the same name.
“Our Elijah, like the prophet, could call down fire from heaven,” Clinton said. “But he also prayed and worked for healing. He weathered storms and earthquakes but never lost his faith.”
But extending the comparison, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee who may or may not be weighing a third presidential run next year went on to take an apparent jab at President Trump — whom Cummings was investigating in his role as oversight committee chairman.
“Like that Old Testament prophet, he stood against corrupt leadership of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel,” Clinton said.
The line drew loud applause from the chamber, as she later raised the question of what Americans can do to “make sure we kept our democracy in tact.”
But in between the politically tinged lines were dedications to Cummings’ legacy.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called him the “north star” of Congress.
“His integrity and character, his can-do spirit, made him a guiding light in the Congress,” Clinton similarly said. “He pushed back against the abuse of power. He was unwavering in his defense of our democracy, he had little tolerance for those who put party before country or partisanship before truth.”
“He lifted up the next generation of leaders, he even worked a few miracles,” Clinton said. “And he kept reminding us life is no dress rehearsal. The American people want to live their lives without fear of their leaders and as leaders, we have a responsibility to keep the promises made when running for office to make the lives of Americans better.”
“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 last week.
Cummings, on Thursday, laid in state at the Capitol, where members of both parties spoke in remembrance of the longtime lawmaker at a Statutory Hall ceremony.
Cummings did not return to work after an undisclosed medical procedure that he said would only keep him away from the Capitol for about a week. Cummings reportedly had heart surgery in 2017 and had a bacterial infection in his knee.
Cummings was known for driving himself back and forth from Baltimore and Washington—sometimes multiple times a day—to make committee hearings, floor votes and tend to issues in his district.
In the House, Cummings, D-Md., had built a substantial power base. At the time of his death, he was chairman of the Oversight Committee and a leading voice in the Congressional Black Caucus. He played a key role in the impeachment inquiry into Trump.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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