In Bobby Rankin’s mind, Mitch McConnell is at least partially responsible for the fact that his brother died of cancer, without the veterans benefits he was owed. Rankin, a pallbearer for the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings at the memorial ceremony held in his honor in the Capitol last week, notably ignored the Senate majority leader in a receiving line. Rankin told The Washington Post, “When I saw Mitch McConnell, all I saw was my brother’s face.”
His brother died last October of a recurrence of multiple myeloma, a cancer that’s long been linked to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, where Jerry Rankin had served as a Marine. For more than three decades, Marines at the base were exposed to industrial solvents, benzene, and other chemicals in the drinking water, and for the past seven years have benefited from a law signed by President Barack Obama that provides coverage for care related to 15 separate diseases. Multiple myeloma is one of those diseases, but Rankin says that his brother was denied the benefits.
He said that Cummings, a longtime friend, had tried to help. “Elijah Cummings reached across party lines trying to help my brother get his military benefits, and Mitch McConnell was one of the persons he reached out to,” Rankin said. But McConnell didn’t help. “I could not put my hands in the man’s hand who refused to help somebody who served his country,” Rankin said. “I couldn’t do it, because I was thinking about my brother.”
McConnell didn’t respond to a request for comment. It’s not clear what help Cummings was looking for from McConnell. But it is very clear in Rankin’s mind that McConnell refused to help his brother. And that information had to have come from Cummings himself, and it isn’t likely that the man would have lied about it. “When I carry him to his grave, if I could say something to him, I would say something I said to him many, many times before,” Rankin told the Post. “What a mighty, mighty man he is.”