Born in a state with a unique history of racial inequality, Congressman Bennie G. Thompson draws inspiration from the legacies of Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, Aaron Henry and Henry Kirksey. The Bolton, Mississippi native considers it an honor to walk the path Mississippi civil rights icons paved decades ago.
Serving his 13th term in the United States House of Representatives, Thompson represents Mississippi’s Second Congressional District where he has spent his entire life fighting to improve the lives of all people.
Congressman Bennie G. Thompson is the longest-serving African-American elected official in the State of Mississippi and the lone Democrat in the Mississippi Congressional Delegation.
He began his grassroots political activism being a civil rights champion through the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) while a student at Tougaloo College – a private historically black college in Jackson, Mississippi. He organized voter registration drives for African-Americans throughout the Mississippi Delta on behalf of the organization before graduating and following in the footsteps of his mother by becoming a school teacher. During his tenure educating the youth of Mississippi, a fire inside of Thompson was ignited pushing him to be a voice to the voiceless through elected office.
From 1969 to 1972, Thompson served as alderman of his hometown, Bolton, before serving as the city’s mayor from 1973 to 1980. During his time as mayor, Thompson improved the city’s infrastructure by paving roads, fixing the water and sewer systems, repairing and renovating dilapidated houses; all while spearheading the construction of city hall and re-evaluating the town’s real estate.
Thompson was a founding member of the Mississippi Association of Black Mayors where he instituted policies and provided services benefiting Bolton’s underserved. The selfless service Thompson provided his hometown was increased when he was elected as a Hinds County supervisor, a position he held from 1980 until 1993. The then-supervisor’s record of being a pragmatic local servant was embraced by constituents in Mississippi’s most populous county.
His record of effective problem solving and coalition building served as the bedrock for his election to the Congress in 1993, representing Mississippi’s largest Congressional District composed of the state’s capital city, Jackson, and the Mississippi Delta.
Congressman Thompson has channeled his passion for public service into action. In 2000, he authored legislation creating the National Center for Minority Health and Health Care Disparities which subsequently became law. After Hurricane Katrina ravaged the State of Mississippi, he aggressively advocated for disaster relief improvements within government agencies, and provided oversight to ensure that federal funds were properly allocated for Gulf Coast recovery.
The following year, Thompson’s Washington colleagues expressed their overwhelming confidence in his leadership abilities and selected him to serve as the first Democratic chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. As chairman, Thompson introduced and engineered passage of the most comprehensive homeland security package since September 11, 2001 – H.R. 1, the “9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007.”
The Congressman has also served on the Agriculture, Budget, and Small Business Committees while working to level the playing field. Thompson employs a progressive and realistic approach to overcome persistent disparities while being the unabashed champion for civil rights, equal education and healthcare delivery in Mississippi.
Representative Thompson is a lifelong member of the Asbury United Methodist Church in Bolton, Mississippi. He has been married his college sweetheart, London Johnson of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, since 1968. The couple has a daughter, BendaLonne; granddaughter, Jeanna; and grandson, Thomas Gordon. Thompson is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys gardening, reading, and listening to the blues.
As the ever developing advancements of modern technology bring our world closer together our nation increasingly comes face to face with the factors affecting and influencing the melting pot which is our society. Coupled with the nation’s fears and anxieties in the wake of 9/11, these factors have begun to bring to the forefront just how important it will be for law and policy makers to ensure that the civil rights and liberties of all United State citizens are preserved and protected. It has been Congressman Thompson’s charge to support the fairness and equity as expressed in the Titles of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Congressman Thompson believes providing for fair and non-discriminatory practices in our schools, job sectors, and communities will prove to be vital in this country’s plans for a future where we out build, out educate and out innovate the rest of the world.
Congressman Thompson has diligently fought to reverse discrimination in the higher education system of Mississippi as an original plaintiff in the Ayers Desegregation Case. He has historically used the court system as an avenue for change on the local, state and federal levels; lawsuits include efforts to have duly elected officials assume office, state redistricting efforts and played an instrumental role in the Black farmers case - paving the way for more than 20,000 farmers to file under the consent decree.
Congressman Thompson believes that our courts should provide rulings of non-biased justice, that hiring and promotional practices should flow evenly and fluidly across genders lines, that small business owners should be afforded the opportunity to take advantage of expansion opportunities which will aid in their development and growth and that the everyday citizens should be able to function without the threat of encroachment or violation of their civil rights. To this end, the efforts of Congressman Thompson have been and continue to be towards the vigilant monitoring, protection and preservation of the civil rights of each and every citizen of this country.
Congressman Thompson has been a longtime supporter of Agriculture. In fact, Congressman Thompson has never voted against a Farm Bill during his nine terms in Congress. The Farm Bill is the primary policy tool for agriculture and food policy in the United States. Our most recent Farm Bill was passed enacted in May of 2008. It contains 15 titles covering support for commodity crops, horticulture and livestock production, conservation, nutrition, trade and food aid, agricultural research, farm credit, rural development, energy, forestry, and other related programs. It also includes provisions that make certain changes to tax laws, in order to offset some new spending initiatives in the final bill. The enacted bill succeeds the most recent 2002 farm bill and is to guide most federal farm and food policies through 2012.
The enacted 2008 farm bill continues or modifies most existing farm and commodity programs, and also creates new programs and provisions. For farm commodities, the bill generally continues the framework of the 2002 farm bill, revises payment limitations adjusts support prices for some commodities, and creates a new revenue support program, in addition to the traditional direct, counter-cyclical, and marketing loan programs for major supported crops. The bill also adds new stand-alone titles containing provisions to address horticulture and livestock issues, including new mandatory funding for specialty crop block grants and to support organic production; and provisions to address meat and poultry inspection, country-of-origin labeling, and livestock competition. Other provisions include changes to the current crop insurance program, a new provision for ongoing disaster assistance, and expanded borrowing opportunities for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers.
The bill’s nutrition title increases food stamp benefits and sets new standards that will make more households eligible, and also raises funding for fresh fruits and vegetables in most domestic food programs. For research, the bill requires the reorganization of USDA’s research, extension, and economic agencies. For most other titles—conservation, international trade and food aid, rural development, forestry, and energy—the enacted law reauthorizes, expands, or modifies many of the existing programs, creates new programs and initiatives, and allows some programs to expire.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment act (“Recovery Act”) is creating jobs and strengthening the economy. It is making a real difference for families, providing new resources to local governments and business, and helping to end the economic free fall that has gripped the country for more than 18 months.
Our economic problems have been years in the making and they will not be solved overnight – but the Recovery Act has helped pull us back from the brink of disaster and we are headed in the right direction.
Congressman Thompson is committed to working to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The primary source of federal aid to K-12 education is the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, particularly its Title I, Part A program of Education for the Disadvantaged. The ESEA was initially enacted in 1965 and was most recently amended and reauthorized by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which authorized virtually all ESEA programs through FY2008. It is widely expected that the 112th Congress will consider whether to amend and extend the ESEA.
The NCLB initiated a major expansion of federal influence upon several aspects of public K-12 education, primarily with the aim of increasing the accountability of public school systems and individual public schools for improving achievement outcomes of all students, especially the disadvantaged. States must implement in all public schools and school districts a variety of standards-based assessments in reading, math and science; make complex annual adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations for each public school and district; and require virtually all public school teachers and aides to meet a variety of qualification requirements. State AYP policies must incorporate an ultimate goal of all public school students reaching a proficient or higher level of achievement by the end of the 2013-14 school year. Further, participating states must enforce a series of increasingly substantial consequences for most of their schools and almost all school districts that fail to meet the AYP standards for two consecutive years or more. All of these requirements are associated with state participation in the ESEA Title I-A program.
While Congressman Thompson supports the ideal of high standards for measuring students and teachers, he believes it is imperative that public school districts receive the necessary funding that would provide innovative and educational tools to teachers, parents and students in their efforts to close the achievement gaps and raise achievement for all children.
After experiencing first hand FEMA’s failure in handling the response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Congressman Thompson became the driving force behind the restructuring of the broken agency.junction with leaders in the Senate, Congressman Thompson successfully created a new and improved FEMA, one with the ability to respond quickly and effectively to any terrorist attack or natural disaster. Drawing on his 26 years of experience as a volunteer firefighter in Hinds County, Congressman Thompson understands that our nation’s law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical services personnel are our first line of defense in times of emergency.
Congressman Thompson is sensitive to the void created by shortfalls in state and local budgets, coupled with increased responsibilities of local emergency service departments. With that in mind, he has constantly fought to ensure they are fully equipped with the resources and tools they need to effectively respond to any and all emergencies, and he has been a tremendous advocate for federal grant programs to help address a variety of equipment, training, and other emergency and disaster-related needs.
Congressman Thompson has been an outspoken supporter of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (FIRE Grants), which has proven to be a very effective program in providing local fire departments with funding for basic equipment, training, health and safety programs, apparatus and public educations programs they need to perform their duties. In addition, Thompson has opposed efforts to eliminate the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program, a critical program aimed at addressing staffing shortfalls in our Nation’s fire departments by providing grants to support hiring of career firefighters and programs for the recruiting and retaining of volunteer firefighters.
Thompson recently introduced legislation (H.R. 3026, H.R. 3027, and H.R. 3028) that will significantly improve our country’s disaster preparation and recovery programs. The legislation is designed to improve “predisaster” mitigation programs, in order to minimize damage before it happens. In particular, the bills will help low and middle income residents harden their homes and apartments and help the small businesses that are the lifelines of our communities. The legislation also will support innovative first responder programs, focusing on projects that the first responders themselves identify as most likely to save lives and property.
Energy and Environment
Protecting the environment is vital to guarding the health of all Americans, particularly our children. Congressman Thompson are fighting for cleaner air, cleaner water, and preservation of our natural resources, understanding that what we do today has an impact on future generations of Americans. We stand up for fair policies that protect America’s environment while allowing for economic opportunity—priorities that can work together.
To create the next generation of clean energy jobs, make our nation more secure and reduce the pollution that causes global warming, Congressman Thompson and Congressional Democrats are committed to investing in our nation’s clean energy future. By investing in renewable sources of energy and funding research on the next clean technology breakthroughs, Democrats are fighting to not only increase our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil, but create jobs right here in America.
Mississippi continues to face tremendous challenges as we confront our health care needs. In fact, all twenty-three counties in the Second District are medically under-served and many citizens are unable to afford health coverage. To help address these challenges Democrats introduce the Affordable Care Act of 2010 to improve the quality of health care and insurance coverage for 315,000 residents. The law extends coverage to 95,000 uninsured residents and allows 16,500 residents with preexisting conditions to obtain coverage just in Mississippi’s Second District alone.
In the first few days of the 112thCongress, with less than eight hours of debate, The House of Representatives voted to chip away at a concrete policy that took more than eighteen months to put together. With the people of the Second District in mind, Congressman Thompson cast a vote against a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
To keep Americans informed of the health care legislation, the Department of Health and Human Services unveiled an innovative new on-line tool that will help consumers take control of their health care by connecting them to new information and resources that will help them access quality, affordable health care coverage.
Health Care Reform
Health reform has been the Obama Administration’s top domestic priority, driven by concerns about the growing ranks of the uninsured and the unsustainable growth in spending on health care and health insurance. A major goal of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 – the health insurance reform legislation President Obama signed into law on March 23, 2010 – is to put American consumers back in charge of their health coverage and care. Improving access to care and controlling rising costs were seen to require changes to both the financing and delivery of health care. Insurance companies often leave patients without coverage when they need it the most, causing them to put off needed care, compromising their health and driving up the cost of care when they get it.
Congressman Thompson and Democrats believe that too often, insurance companies put insurance company bureaucrats between you and your doctor. The Affordable Care Act cracks down on some of the most egregious practices of the insurance industry while providing the stability and the flexibility that families and businesses need to make the choices that work best for them.
Firefighters raising American flag
In response to 9/11, the federal government created the Department of Homeland Security to oversee our nation’s security. During the 112th Congress, as Ranking Member of and leading Democratic voice in the House of Representatives, Congressman Thompson’s main objective remains to improve the governance and accountability of the Department of Homeland Security and implement policies that protect our homeland from foreign and domestic terrorism.
Congressman Thompson and Democrats will continue their work to secure the nation’s critical infrastructure, our borders and our ports. Additionally, Congressman Thompson and Democrats will carry on the work to improve the nation’s ability to prepare for and respond to any disasters we may encounter by ensuring that our first responders have the training, tools and guidance they need to do their jobs.
Jobs and the Economy
Congressman Thompson believes that Congress’ number one priority should be creating jobs for the American people. Every effort that comes before Congress will be measured by whether it creates jobs strengthens the middle class and reduces the deficit. Congress should be working with laser-like focus to put Americans back to work.
More than one million private sector jobs were created last year; indeed, more jobs were created last year than 2001 through 2008 combined. Further, one-fifth of the new jobs – over 200,000 – have been in the health care industry. However, there is more work to be done; far too many Americans are still out of work.
Congressman Thompson strongly supports the Make It in America agenda, a legislative initiative to revitalize manufacturing in America, create new good-paying jobs, and make our nation more secure. During 2010, six Make It in America initiatives became law, including the landmark Small Business Jobs Act that provided eight tax cuts, unleashed private lending for small businesses and is projected to create 500,000 jobs.
Congressman Thompson believes that protecting the promise of Social Security is an absolute. He feels that the hard working people of this nation deserve the right to a retirement which lends to a sense of dignity. Pension reform should support the best interest of laborers, saving incentives should offer room for expansion and social security should not be made susceptible to the “income over individual” pitfalls of the private industry.
Mississippi’s Second Congressional District currently has a total of 128,304 beneficiaries that receive Social Security of which 18,182 are children. Privatization is a proposal that takes the hard earned money of hard-working people and puts that money into risky private stock accounts. Such uncertainty takes the security out of this social program and places in jeopardy the livelihood of these 128,304 citizens.
Our nation was and continues to be built on the backs of an extraordinary class of people who have and will continue to earn the right to a secure retirement. This should not come at the loss of enjoyable livelihood, which has been lost due an increase in retirement age. The Social Security retirement system was created to help alleviate poverty among elderly Americans and meet the retirement needs of all workers. Social Security has become the single most effective federal anti-poverty program in our history, lifting more than 11 million seniors and countless disabled workers out of poverty. For many seniors, Social Security is the only retirement security they have.
Now more than ever we must stand by the promise of Social Security as a safety net available to retirees who otherwise would have nothing.
Women, more than any other group, may be the most severely impacted by attempts to reform Social Security. One-third of all women age 65 and older receive 90 percent of their retirement income from Social Security. More so than their male counterparts, Hispanic women are less likely to have access to private pension coverage and they tend to receive the lowest wages of any category of worker. The great promise of Social Security has been its dependability, the guarantee of the United States government that we will not let seniors down in their time of need. Our goal is to hold strong to this public trust.
The Social Security is and has always been an on-time, guaranteed benefit for retirees and should stay this way. Congressman Thompson will continue to monitor this issue, keeping a close watch to ensure Social Security remains intact as Congress works toward reform.
At the end of FY2010, the Veterans population in the United States was approximately 22.6 million. Congressman Thompson is and has been a consistent supporter of our armed fighting forces and veterans, making sure that these 22.6 million heroes get the services they deserve. Congressman Thompson is committed to ensuring that Veterans are provided the very best services. He has worked to ensure that funds are wisely appropriated for VA to improve the quality of life for Veterans and the efficiency of their operations innovatively and transparently as they deliver on the enduring promises of Presidents and the obligations of the American people to our Veterans.
Congressman Thompson is a supporter of the “GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century”. This is a comprehensive package of legislation to improve benefits for our men and women in uniform and for the nation’s military retirees and veterans. This legislation will bolster support for our troops in harm’s way and their families here at home. In addition, included are special provisions for the National Guard and Reserves that provide better education, health care and job training to these men and women whose service has been above the call of duty.
Congressman Thompson has been an advocate and supporter of the Wounded Warrior Assistance Act, which takes the first steps to address the problems brought to light by the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal.
- Improves outpatient medical care for wounded service members at military health care facilities;
- Begins restoring integrity and efficiency to disability evaluations and cutting bureaucratic red-tape; and
- Improves the transition of wounded service members from the Armed Forces to the VA system.
Congressman Thompson salutes the courage and hard work of our troops and will continue to push for efforts that provide our service members and veterans with the best equipment, health, and pension benefits we have to offer.