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Wed, 01.28.1948

Bennie Thompson, Politician born

Bennie Thompson

*Bennie Thompson was born on this date in 1948. He is a Black politician serving as the U.S. representative for Mississippi. His district includes most of Jackson and is the only majority-black district in the state. It is about 275 miles long, 180 miles wide, and borders the Mississippi River. The Mississippi Delta comprises most of the district.

Bennie Gordon Thompson is a lifelong resident of Bolton, near Jackson, MS. He attended Hinds County public schools before earning a B.A. in political science from Tougaloo College in 1968 and an M.S. in educational administration from Jackson State University in 1973. He served as an alderman and then mayor of Bolton before being elected to the Hinds County Board of Supervisors. Thompson joined the House of Representatives on April 13, 1993, after Mike Espy gave up his seat to become Secretary of Agriculture. He won the seat again in 1994 and has been reelected 12 times.

He became an outspoken advocate for the Gulf Coast after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit in 2005. From his position on the Homeland Security Committee, he pursued waste, fraud, and abuse in hurricane contracting. He called for preferences for small and Gulf Coast businesses in the recovery and rebuilding of the affected states. Thompson is the founding member of the bipartisan Gulf Coast Recovery & Rebuilding Caucus in the House of Representatives. Thompson is a liberal member of the Mississippi delegation and arguably one of the most liberal members of Congress ever to represent the state. He is a founding member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. His legislative platform focuses mainly on homeland security, civil rights, agriculture, rural issues, equal education, and health care reform.

In 1975, he became one of the original plaintiffs in the Ayers Case, which concerned the adequate funding of predominantly black educational institutes in Mississippi. In 2000, Thompson wrote legislation that created the National Center for Minority Health and Health Care Disparities. Thompson focused on assuring that state and local officials and first responders (fire, police, EMTs) got the resources to protect their communities. Thompson was particularly concerned about local officials getting adequate resources, having been a volunteer firefighter and a local elected official for 24 years.

Thompson was one of thirty-one House Democrats who voted to overturn the results of the 2004 presidential election; President George W. Bush won Ohio, the state the representatives objected to counting, by 118,457 votes. Without Ohio's electoral votes, the U.S. House of Representatives would have decided the election, with each state having one vote following the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Along with John Conyers, in April 2006, Thompson brought an action against George W. Bush and others alleging violations of the Constitution in passing the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. The case was dismissed. On January 5, 2007, he introduced H.R.1, "Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007", the first bill of the 110th Congress. With the passage of H.R. 1, Thompson was the first Black Chairman of a House Committee to have a House-Senate Conference on the first bill introduced in either the House or the Senate in any given Congress.

Thompson is a supporter, and one of the proposers of, a bill to prevent auto insurance companies from using credit scores to set their rates, which supporters claim would lower rates for Americans in financial struggle. The bill has not been enacted.

He has also supported a measure to increase screening and background checks for pilot trainees to reduce the chances of terrorist exploitation. The bill, H.R. 6159, would require all applicants to go through a waiting period while screened and cleared by the Department of Homeland Security. Currently, only foreign-born trainees are required to go through this screening. The bill has not been enacted. On April 1, 2020, Thompson and other Democratic lawmakers on the House Homeland Security Committee introduced legislation that would create a commission tasked with "producing a full and complete accounting of the nation's preparedness and response to the coronavirus." A bipartisan group of House lawmakers would appoint 25 commission members, and 18 months after its initial meeting, a "public report detailing recommendations for developing a national plan to address public health and the economic and social impacts of future pandemics" would be published.

For his tenure as the House Homeland Security Committee chairman in the 116th Congress, Thompson earned an "A" grade from the non-partisan Lugar Center's Congressional Oversight Hearing Index. On March 3, 2021, Thompson was the only House Democrat to vote against the For the People Act, a top legislative priority of House Democrats that would reform campaign finance and election laws and expand voting rights. Despite initially cosponsoring the bill, Thompson said his vote "was no accident," explaining, "My constituents opposed the redistricting portion of the bill and the section on public finances. I always listen and vote in the interest of my constituents." On July 1, 2021, the speaker chose Thompson to chair the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack.

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