Congress

Cummings says he’d like to invite Trump to Baltimore but can’t reach him

Maryland Democrat addresses president’s recent attacks on his home city

House Oversight Chairman Elijah E. Cummings wants the president to see “all the wonderful things that are happening” in his Maryland district. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings said Wednesday that he’d like President Donald Trump, who recently attacked him and his hometown of Baltimore, to visit his district, but he’s been unable to reach Trump to personally invite him.

“Ah God, I want him to come,” the Democratic congressman said at a Wednesday luncheon at the National Press Club, as he addressed Trump’s recent tweetstorm disparaging Baltimore.

Cummings said he wants Trump to see the whole city of Baltimore, as well as other parts of his district, like Baltimore and Howard counties “where the richest of the rich” live.

“I’ll ride with him for hours,” he said, noting, “I want him to see all the wonderful things that are happening.” 

Cummings noted that his Press Club address and Q&A session had been scheduled two months ago, long before Trump’s attacks on Baltimore or two mass shootings that took place over the weekend. But he opted to spend a lot of time on those topics during his speech, which had been planned to discuss his work as chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. 

“Destiny brought us to this moment,” he said.

Cummings opened his remarks expressing his condolences for the lives lost in the El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, shootings and calling on his colleagues in Congress to do something.

“The American people are begging us for more than thoughts and prayers. They want action, and they want it now,” he said. 

Like other Democratic lawmakers have this week, Cummings called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take up a House-passed bill expanding background checks on gun purchases. 

Asked if he thinks Congress should cancel its summer recess in light of the mass shootings, Cummings said “yes”  

“People are dying,” he said, noting that it is incumbent upon Congress to do whatever is necessary to save lives. “I’m prepared to go.”

‘Nothing happens’

Despite his personal interest in changing gun laws, Cummings was pessimistic that Republicans — some of whom have expressed renewed openness to legislative action this week — are serious about actually passing anything.

“You have a lot of talk. … In the end, nothing happens,” he said, recalling an effort to work with a former Republican congressman to pass legislation after the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut that ended without any resolutions.  

“The bottom line: Either you do it, or you don’t,” Cummings said. 

Comparing the Republican rhetoric to a shell game, Cummings said GOP politicians talk a big game about taking action, knowing the president will cover for them and won’t support anything they oppose.

“Even if the president says some nice things, I believe it’s a situation where McConnell’s got his back,” he added. 

Cummings compared his neighbors in Baltimore, whom he called hardworking, determined people, to those in the communities suffering from the recent mass shootings.  

“They are no different than the people of Texas or Ohio or anywhere else in our great nation,” he said. “We have honest and candid conversations. We do not hesitate to critique and protest what we are lacking or is wrong with our city. These criticisms are necessary. They are a burgeoning ground for constructive change. At the same time, however, unbalanced criticism can be self-reinforcing, causing us to doubt our ability to improve.”

He said that what bothers him the most about attacks on Baltimore, whether coming from the president or others, “is that we have people stepping on the hopes of our children and the hopes of our people.”

Oversight work

Cummings also spoke to the work his Oversight Committee is doing investigating matters such as high drug prices, the opioid epidemic and voter suppression.

On the latter, he noted the last words his mother spoke to him before she died: “Do not let anyone take our votes away.”

Cummings said the committee is making progress in its drug pricing investigation, having received tens of thousands of pages of documents in response to requests for information from drug companies.

“Our staff is analyzing the materials we have … and we’re expecting to collect even more,” he said.

In response to the opioid epidemic in particular, Cummings noted that he will travel to West Virginia in the next week or so talk to advocates and professionals about challenges they face addressing the crisis.

As the event concluded, Cummings called on the Democratic presidential candidates to act differently from the man they are vying to replace.

“Let me be clear to our presidential candidates, don’t get it twisted,” he said, repeating those four words again for emphasis.  “It is so important that you go for higher ground.”

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