Americans woke up to the news that Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) died early Thursday morning at the age of 68. The announcement comes after the Democratic congressman had been absent from House proceedings for several weeks. He cast his last vote a month ago on September 11, but worked up until his final hours, signing two subpoenas just before his passing. Although Cummings’ contributions to American politics and his legacy as an advocate for justice will never be replaced, the work he was devoted to will continue.
Cummings’ congressional seat will be filled by a special election in Maryland’s 7th District. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has not yet announced the date of the special election. Maryland law gives Hogan 10 days to issue a proclamation of when a special primary and special election will be held, but based on regulations it will not happen before the new year.
Cummings served as the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee which investigates federal programs and other federal policy matters. He drew attention in the Trump era for playing a key role in highly publicized proceedings like the Michael Cohen investigation, the Trump-Russia probe, and the Donald Trump impeachment inquiry. As Oversight chair, Cummings issued subpoenas to USCIS and ICE for deporting critically ill children, as well as Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to obtain documents related to Trump’s impeachment inquiry.
Questions remain as to who will replace Cummings as Oversight Committee chair. According to congressional rules, Democrats have 30 days to elect a new chair. Rep. Caroyln Maloney (D-N.Y.) will serve as acting chair until Democratic leadership determines a formal replacement. Reps. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) and Gerald Connolly (D-Va) are possible contenders for the position.
Cummings lamented the degradation of normal democratic processes in the Trump era. In his closing statement at the conclusion Michael Cohen’s hearing, Cummings remarked, “I’m hoping that all of us can get back to this democracy that we want, and that we should be passing on our children so they can do better than what we did.”