Washington D.C. – House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) delivered the following remarks on the House floor today to commemorate the incredible life of Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD-07):
“I thank my friend for yielding. I thank him for his words. And I thank the Speaker. We lost more than just a member of Congress — we lost Elijah Cummings. As Speaker [Pelosi] spoke of his life, she talked about him bringing calmness.
“I want you to reflect for one moment. When have you ever served in this body that we’ve been this calm and this quiet and this reflective. Elijah’s work is still good with us right now.
“Chairman Cummings had enormous presence. There were many times he’d be an adversary. He was a respected adversary because he was tough. He had such a presence on this side of the aisle and an impression that when we would sit inside our steering committee, maybe I’m breaking a rule, we’re never supposed to talk about what we say in there. But when would select a chair or a ranking member, we weighed who we went against. And every time we spoke of selecting an individual who can rise to the occasion to be in debate with him, we would look for somebody who was strong. And every time someone was selected, they’d come back to be a very best friend of Elijah Cummings. It’s a tough committee. It’s a committee of accountability, it’s a committee of debate. I can’t tell you how many friends would call me and be in fear because they got a letter from Cummings. But he was a man of fairness.
“You don’t know this because in committees at times you have these debates, but when you’re sitting as a Chair and a ranking member, what we would talk about was — Elijah would share with us life lessons. You know what he would say privately to the Chair or the ranking member on the other side, what he would say to Jim Jordan, what he’d say to Trey Gowdy. Trey shared this with me today. They never stopped talking even though he left Congress. Jim Jordan shared with me today that he was talking to Elijah just last week about committee business. Trey talked about a story — Trey was pretty tough on one person and Trey’s good. The prosecutor in him could get to the point. Elijah turned to him and said, ‘[the witness] is not a government employee. She has a family and she has children. You can be a little softer next time.’ And that hit on his heart.
“And what I fear in a world today that when they look at us, they get this persona through cameras and social media, but it doesn’t show our character. We are the only ones who get the window into one another’s character of how we act. We are the ones who should share the message.
“Because he was so strong in his beliefs, I’m afraid some people in America won’t know what type of character he actually had, not as a member of Congress and not as a political figure, but as a person because that’s how I knew Elijah. He was a fighter. So many times in his life, people told him no, and he’d say yes, he could. He was a leader, but not in the sense that America probably thinks as a member of Congress. His entire life, he wanted to overturn racial injustice.
“A member shared with me the first time he got to know Elijah — it was on a CODEL down in Mexico. Most of the bus ride, people were asleep because it was one of those long trips. Elijah sat and talked to him. This member was from the south and he talked about how his grandparents were there, but his grandparents moved him away because he felt he would have a better chance, just because of the color of his skin, that he’d get a better education. Elijah was not upset by that.
“He felt this country gave him opportunity. That’s why he wanted to serve. So all of us are here to honor the fortune and the privilege of knowing him.
“If you were a freshman, if you are, I hope you took a few moments with him. It didn’t matter if you were a Chair or rank or if you are a Republican or Democrat — he would spend that time with you. I feel I’m better for knowing him and I want you to know from this side of the aisle, no matter how hard of a debate we were in, I only heard respect for how he carried out the business.
“We respected him because he was good. We respect him because he beat us many a times. We respect him because what he fought for, he believed in.
“Our deepest prayers go to Maya. Because in those life lessons, and in that window that we get to see, it’s not the easiest to have a family in these jobs. We have a lot of things pulled on us. But we knew where his heart stood, where his family mattered and where he continued to believe in.
“So yes, today we lost more than just a member, but I hope as the days progress, as the times change and our debate gets heated again, that we reflect on this moment of calmness. Reflect on this moment thinking of one another, and we reflect on the idea that yeah, television may give us a different persona of who we are, but yes, you and I get to see the window of the character in each and every one of us. I think that’s what Elijah would want us to do. So in his honor, let’s find that tomorrow will be better than today and that this calmness will last longer than the next vote.
“I yield back.”