"He was strong, very strong when necessary, but also kind and caring and honorable," Schumer said.
"When people like Elijah Cummings are no longer with us, those gathered here today lost a dear friend and our country has lost a giant." Cummings, a civil rights champion who over the last quarter century became one of the most influential Democrats in Congress and a key figure in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, died last Thursday at the age of 68.
A powerful speaker with a formidable presence, Cummings had clashed with Trump on subjects ranging from congressional oversight of the White House to Trump's attacks on Cummings' native city of Baltimore, which the president called "rat-infested." Cummings responded in a speech early in August at the National Press Club, saying that high-level government officials should "stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior." Cummings died of "complications concerning longstanding health challenges," his office said in a statement.
He had been absent recently from Congress, to which he was first elected in 1996.