House Oversight Committee member Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz mourned on Thursday the passing of the panel’s chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings, saying the late congressman “had unmatched integrity (and) wisdom.”
Fighting back tears, Wasserman Schultz told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day” that her “heart is broken. For his family, for his community, for our country.”
“Elijah Cummings had unmatched integrity, wisdom. You couldn’t spend five minutes with Elijah Cummings without feeling impacted deeply by his guidance, by his values,” the Florida Democrat said.
Earlier Thursday, the office of Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, announced that he died at 68 of “complications concerning longstanding health challenges.” As chair of the House Oversight Committee, Cummings, who had served in Congress since 1996, was a key figure leading investigations into President Donald Trump, including some connected to House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. He was also a leader among African Americans in Congress.
Wasserman Schultz said the late congressman was a mentor and that he constantly “put his community and the cause above everything else — including himself.”
“And to have watched him struggle with the health problems he had and still lead the Oversight Committee and push to make sure that the Constitution and our nation’s principles were upheld was a privilege that I will — that I don’t know that I’ll ever experience again,” she said. “But I know that we’ll walk in his shadow, in his shoes that will never be filled.”
Wasserman Schultz said that as congressional Democrats on the committee move forward with the impeachment inquiry into Trump, they’ll “have to try to draw strength from the wisdom we benefited from for so many years.”
The congresswoman also noted how Cummings famously maintained friendships with Republicans in Congress, saying “fierce partisans on both sides had respect and admiration” for him.
“This was a man who earned respect, deservedly so,” Wasserman Schultz said.