Voices of civility: when Elijah Cummings and Jason Chaffetz visited each others’ districts

Oct 17, 2019, 9:26 AM | Updated: 9:29 am
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, visits Arches National Park with former Rep. Jason Chaffetz in August 2014. The two congressmen visited each others' districts to better understand each other and the unique needs of their very different parts of the country. Photo: Amy Joi O'Donoghue, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — As pundits across the country remember a Maryland Democrat who headed the House Oversight Committee, Utah remembers the time Elijah Cummings and a political opposite, former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, came together for a civility tour.

Cummings and Chaffetz

Rep. Cummings came to the Beehive State in August 2014, at the special invitation of Republican Jason Chaffetz. While here, he took part in a town hall on the Doug Wright Show on KSL NewsRadio, talking about how the two men had learned you don’t have to agree to be friends.

“This is an opportunity I never thought I’d have,” said Wright as he introduced Cummings on the air.

Cummings talked about exchanging visits with Chaffetz to each other’s district.

“I often say that I don’t worry who I’m fighting against; I worry about what I’m fighting for. And I wanted him to have that opportunity to meet some folks and to understand what they go through every day,” said Cummings.

Touring each other’s districts to find common ground

While in Utah, Cummings went on a boat trip down the Colorado River and visited Arches National Park, then met with county commissioners and local business owners.

“I had a chance to see things that I probably never would have seen if the doors had not been opened by Congressman Chaffetz for me to come here and for him to come to my district, ” he said.

Chaffetz said the two decided to “trade” visits to home districts to gain a better understanding of challenges that dominate the vastly different regions — and to build political bridges that seem rare in today’s Washington.

“If you break bread with somebody, you get to know somebody, it makes it much easier to sit down and actually make the case. I don’t think that compromise is a dirty word,” said Chaffetz.

“We have to find a way for Democrats and Republicans to work together because when we don’t work together the people suffer,” said Cummings.

A reputation in Baltimore and beyond

Cummings, 68, died Thursday at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital due to “complications concerning longstanding health challenges,” his office said in a statement.

By late Thursday morning, Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered the flags over the US Capitol to fly at half-staff. She opened her weekly news conference with a tribute to Cummings, noting his ability to cross party lines.

“Elijah was a fighter for low income and prescription drugs, reaching across the aisle to do so. He always chose to reach across the aisle and treat all of our colleagues with respect and even had dialogue with the President for a while on this subject,” Pelosi said.

Sen. Lindsay Graham, a South Carolina Republican, described Cummings as a good man who would help even a political opponent.

“There is a void in the House today that will be hard to fill,” Graham said.

Cummings grew up in Baltimore and continued to live there as a congressman. Coming of age during the civil rights movement, he recalled being beaten and having rocks and bottles thrown at him as he tried to help integrate a pool near his home. Later, he became the first African-American to serve as Maryland’s Speaker Pro Tem. Cummings was elected to Congress in 1996.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

Politics + Government

This photo purports to show the suspected Chinese balloon flying over Mills River, North Carolina, ...
Heather Chen and Wayne Chang, CNN

China says it ‘reserves the right’ to deal with ‘similar situations’ after US shoot down suspected spy balloon

China says it "reserves the right" to deal with "similar situations" following the United States' decision to shoot down its high-altitude balloon.
1 day ago
The Chinese national flag is seen at the entrance to the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing...
By Zachary Cohen, CNN

A look at China’s history of spying in the US

The suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that violated American airspace this week has fueled a diplomatic crisis with the postponement of Secretary of State Antony Blinken's planned trip to Beijing.
2 days ago
A balloon flies in the sky over Billings, Montana, U.S. February 1, 2023, in this picture obtained ...
Zachary Cohen, CNN

US military has shot down the Chinese spy balloon off US East Coast, US official says

The US military has shot down the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over the Atlantic Ocean off the Eastern Seaboard, a US official said Saturday.
2 days ago
Martin Gold, a visiting scholar with the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation, says the Filibuster is critical...
Mark Jones

Filibuster is critical if country is to maintain compromise, expert says

A visiting scholar to the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation told Inside Sources Friday how important the filibuster is to compromise.
3 days ago
Britt Johnson

Utah County men facing charges for defrauding the United States

The claims state that Zachary Bassett and Mason Warr used a fraudulent tax scheme to receive COVID-19-related relief funds.
3 days ago
Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, sponsor of HB297 Victim Services Amendments, poses for a portrait at...
Katie McKellar, Deseret News

A Utah lawmaker and her sister at odds: Should rape victims need to contact police before getting an abortion?

Rep. Kera Birkeland says her bill focuses on rape victim services and holding rapists accountable. But her sister, a rape survivor, says it strips away choices.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
Voices of civility: when Elijah Cummings and Jason Chaffetz visited each others’ districts