Bennie Thompson on Government Reform
Democratic Representative (MS-2)
Voted YES on Senate pay raise.
Makes appropriations to the Senate for FY2010 for:Amends the Legislative Branch Appropriation Act of 1968 to increase by $50,000 the gross compensation paid all employees in the office of a Senator. Increases by $96,000 per year the aggregate amount authorized for the offices of the Majority and Minority Whip.
- expense allowances;
- representation allowances for the Majority and Minority Leaders;
- salaries of specified officers, employees, and committees (including the Committee on Appropriations);
- agency contributions for employee benefits;
- inquiries and investigations;
- the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control;
- the Offices of the Secretary and of the Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate;
- miscellaneous items;
- the Senators' Official Personnel and Office Expense Account; and
- official mail costs.
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D, FL-20): We, as Members of
Congress, have responsibility not just for the institution, but for the staff that work for this institution, and to preserve the facilities that help support this institution. We have endeavored to do that responsibly, and I believe we have accomplished that goal.
Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. SCALISE (R, LA-1): It's a sad day when someone attempts to cut spending in a bill that grows government by the size of 7%, and it's not allowed to be debated on this House floor. Some of their Members actually used the term "nonsense" and "foolishness" when describing our amendments to cut spending; they call that a delaying tactic. Well, I think Americans all across this country want more of those types of delaying tactics to slow down this runaway train of massive Federal spending. Every dollar we spend from today all the way through the end of this year is borrowed money. We don't have that money. We need to control what we're spending.
Reference: Legislative Branch Appropriations Act;
; vote number 2009-H413
on Jun 19, 2009
Voted YES on requiring lobbyist disclosure of bundled donations.
Amends the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 to require a registered lobbyist who bundles contributions totaling over $5,000 to one covered recipient in one quarter to:
"Covered recipient" includes federal candidates, political party committees, or leadership PACs [but not regular PACs].
- file a quarterly report with Congress; and
- notify the recipient.
Proponents support voting YES because:
This measure will more effectively regulate, but does not ban, the practice of registered lobbyists bundling together large numbers of campaign contributions. This is a practice that has already taken root in Presidential campaigns. "Bundling" contributions which the lobbyist physically receives and forwards to the candidate, or which are credited to the lobbyist through a specific tracking system put in place by the candidate. This bill requires quarterly reporting on bundled contributions.
We ultimately need to move to assist the public financing of campaigns, as soon
as we can. But until we do, the legislation today represents an extremely important step forward.
Opponents support voting NO because:
This legislation does not require that bundled contributions to political action committees, often referred to as PACs, be disclosed. Why are PACs omitted from the disclosure requirements in this legislation?
If we are requiring the disclosure of bundled contributions to political party committees, those same disclosure rules should also apply to contributions to PACs. Party committees represent all members of that party affiliation. PACs, on the other hand, represent more narrow, special interests. Why should the former be exposed to more sunshine, but not the latter?
The fact that PACs give more money to Democrats is not the only answer. Time and again the majority party picks favorites, when what the American people want is more honesty and more accountability.
Reference: Honest Leadership and Open Government Act;
Bill H R 2316
; vote number 2007-423
on May 24, 2007
Voted YES on granting Washington DC an Electoral vote & vote in Congress.
Bill to provide for the treatment of the District of Columbia as a Congressional district for representation in the House of Representatives, and in the Electoral College. Increases membership of the House from 435 to 437 Members beginning with the 110th Congress. [Political note: D.C. currently has a non-voting delegate to the US House. Residents of D.C. overwhelmingly vote Democratic, so the result of this bill would be an additional Democratic vote in the House and for President].
Proponents support voting YES because:
This bill corrects a 200-year-old oversight by restoring to the citizens of the District of Columbia the right to elect a Member of the House of Representatives who has the same voting rights as all other Members.
Residents of D.C. serve in the military. They pay Federal taxes each year. Yet they are denied the basic right of full representation in the House of Representatives.
The District of Columbia was created to prevent any State from unduly influencing the operations of the Federal Government. However, there is simply no evidence that the Framers of the Constitution thought it was necessary to keep D.C. residents from being represented in the House by a voting Member.
Opponents support voting NO because:
The proponents of this bill in 1978 believed that the way to allow D.C. representation was to ratify a constitutional amendment. The Founders of the country had the debate at that time: Should we give D.C. a Representative? They said no. So if you want to fix it, you do it by making a constitutional amendment.
Alternatively, we simply could have solved the D.C. representation problem by retroceding, by giving back part of D.C. to Maryland. There is precedent for this. In 1846, Congress took that perfectly legal step of returning present-day Arlington to the State of Virginia.
Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act;
Bill H R 1905
; vote number 2007-231
on Apr 19, 2007
Voted YES on protecting whistleblowers from employer recrimination.
Expands the types of whistleblower disclosures protected from personnel reprisals for federal employees, particularly on national security issues.
Proponents support voting YES because:
This bill would strengthen one of our most important weapons against waste, fraud and abuse, and that is Federal whistleblower protections. Federal employees are on the inside and offer accountability. They can see where there is waste going on or if there is corruption going on.
One of the most important provisions protects national security whistleblowers. There are a lot of Federal officials who knew the intelligence on Iraq was wrong. But none of these officials could come forward. If they did, they could have been stripped of their security clearances, or they could have been fired. Nobody blew the whistle on the phony intelligence that got us into the Iraq war.
Opponents support voting NO because:
It is important that personnel within the intelligence community have
appropriate opportunities to bring matters to Congress so long as the mechanisms to do so safeguard highly sensitive classified information and programs. The bill before us suffers from a number of problems:
Reference: Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act;
Bill H R 985
; vote number 2007-153
on Mar 14, 2007
- The bill would conflict with the provisions of the existing Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998, which protecting sensitive national security information from unauthorized disclosure to persons not entitled to receive it.
- The bill violates the rules of the House by encouraging intelligence community personnel to report highly sensitive intelligence matters to committees other than the Intelligence Committees. The real issue is one of protecting highly classified intelligence programs and ensuring that any oversight is conducted by Members with the appropriate experiences, expertise, and clearances.
- This bill would make every claim of a self-described whistleblower, whether meritorious or not, subject to extended and protracted litigation.
Voted NO on requiring photo ID for voting in federal elections.
Requires that to vote in federal elections, an individual present a government-issued, current, and valid photo identification. After 2010, that ID must require providing proof of US citizenship as a condition for issuance. An individual who does not present such an ID is permitted to cast a provisional ballot, and then present the required ID within 48 hours. Exempts from this requirement the absentee ballot of any eligible overseas military voter on active duty overseas.
Proponents support voting YES because:
The election system is the bedrock that our Republic is built on and its security and oversight is of paramount concern. Only US citizens have the right to vote in Federal elections, but our current system does not give State election officials the tools they need to ensure that this requirement is being met.
This bill is designed to increase participation by ensuring that each legitimate vote will be counted and not be diluted by fraud. There are many elections
in this country every cycle that are decided by just a handful of votes. How can we be certain that these elections, without measures to certify the identity of voters, are not being decided by fraudulent votes?
Opponents support voting NO because:
There is something we can all agree on: only Americans get to vote, and they only get to vote once. But what we are talking about in this bill is disenfranchising many of those Americans. It is already a felony for a non-American to vote. We had hearings and what we found out was that the issue of illegal aliens voting basically does not occur.
The impact of this will disproportionately affect poor people and African Americans, because many are too poor to have a car and they do not have a license. We have no evidence there is a problem. We have ample evidence that this will disenfranchise many Americans. This is the measure to disenfranchise African Americans, Native Americans. It is wrong and we will not stand for it.
Reference: Federal Election Integrity Act;
Bill H R 4844
; vote number 2006-459
on Sep 20, 2006
Voted NO on restricting independent grassroots political committees.
A "527 organization" is a political committee which spends money raised independently of any candidate's campaign committee, in support or opposition of a candidate or in support or opposition of an issue. Well-known examples include MoveOn.org (anti-Bush) and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (anti-Kerry). Voting YES would regulate 527s as normal political committees, which would greatly restrict their funding, and hence would shift power to candidate committees and party committees. The bill's opponents say: This legislation singles out 527 organizations in an effort to undermine their fundraising and is a direct assault on free speech.This bill would obstruct the efforts of grassroots organizations while doing nothing to address the culture of corruption in Congress.H.R. 513 is an unbalanced measure that favors corporate trade associations over independent advocates. Corporate interests could continue spending unlimited and undisclosed dollars for political purposes while independent
organizations would be subject to contribution limits and source restrictions.H.R. 513 also removes all limits on national and state party spending for Congressional candidates in primary or general elections--an unmasked attack on the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and clear evidence that the true intention in advancing H.R. 513 is not reform, but partisan advantage in political fundraising.
The bill's proponents say:
Reference: Federal Election Campaign Act amendment "527 Reform Act";
; vote number 2006-088
on Apr 5, 2006
- 527s' primary purpose is to influence the election or defeat of a Federal candidate. They have to file with the FEC because after Watergate in 1974 this Congress passed a law that said if you are going to have a political committee whose primary purpose is to influence an election, then they have to register with the FEC.
- The FEC ignored 30 years of congressional actions and Supreme Court jurisprudence in allowing 527s to evade the law. In short, the FEC failed to do its job and regulate 527s as required under the Watergate statute.
Voted NO on prohibiting lawsuits about obesity against food providers.
The Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act ("The Cheesburger Bill") would prevent civil liability actions against food manufacturers, marketers, distributors, advertisers, sellers, and trade associations for claims relating to a person's weight gain, obesity, or any health condition associated with weight gain or obesity. A YES vote would:
Reference: The Cheesburger Bill;
Bill HR 554
; vote number 2005-533
on Oct 19, 2005
- Prohibit such lawsuits in this act in federal or state courts
- Dismiss any pending lawsuits upon this bill's enactment
- Maintain an individual's right to bring a lawsuit to court for false marketing, advertising or labeling of food when such information led to injury, obesity or weight gain
Voted NO on limiting attorney's fees in class action lawsuits.
Class Action Fairness Act of 2005: Amends the Federal judicial code to specify the calculation of contingent and other attorney's fees in proposed class action settlements that provide for the award of coupons to class members. Allows class members to refuse compliance with settlement agreements or consent decrees absent notice. Prohibits a Federal district court from approving:
Reference: Bill sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley [R, IA];
; vote number 2005-038
on Feb 17, 2005
- a proposed coupon settlement absent a finding that the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate;
- a proposed settlement involving payments to class counsel that would result in a net monetary loss to class members, absent a finding that the loss is substantially outweighed by nonmonetary benefits; or
- a proposed settlement that provides greater sums to some class members solely because they are closer geographically to the court.
Voted NO on restricting frivolous lawsuits.
Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2004: Amends the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to:
Reference: Bill sponsored by Rep Lamar Smith [R, TX-21];
; vote number 2004-450
on Sep 14, 2004
- require courts to impose sanctions on attorneys, law firms, or parties who file frivolous lawsuits (currently, sanctions are discretionary);
- disallow the withdrawal or correction of pleadings to avoid sanctions;
- require courts to award parties prevailing on motions reasonable expenses and attorney's fees, if warranted;
- authorize courts to impose sanctions that include reimbursement of a party's reasonable litigation costs in connection with frivolous lawsuits; and
- make the discovery phase of litigation subject to sanctions.
Voted NO on campaign finance reform banning soft-money contributions.
Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance Overhaul: Vote to pass a bill that would ban soft money contributions to national political parties but permit up to $10,000 in soft money contributions to state and local parties to help with voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives. The bill would stop issue ads from targeting specific candidates within 30 days of the primary or 60 days of the general election. Additionally, the bill would raise the individual contribution limit from $1,000 to $2,000 per election for House and Senate candidates, both of which would be indexed for inflation.
Reference: Bill sponsored by Shays, R-CT, and Meehan D-MA;
Bill HR 2356
; vote number 2002-34
on Feb 14, 2002
Voted NO on banning soft money donations to national political parties.
Support a ban on soft money donations to national political parties but allow up to $10,000 in soft-money donations to state and local parties for voter registration and get-out-the vote activity.
Bill HR 2356
; vote number 2001-228
on Jul 12, 2001
Voted YES on banning soft money and issue ads.
Campaign Finance Reform Act to ban "soft money" and impose restrictions on issue advocacy campaigning.
Reference: Bill sponsored by Shays, R-CT;
Bill HR 417
; vote number 1999-422
on Sep 14, 1999
Election reform is #1 priority to prevent disenfranchisement.
Thompson adopted the CBC principles:
Source: Congressional Black Caucus press release 01-CBC7 on Jan 6, 2001
- Election Reform is the CBC’s Number One Legislative Priority. What happened in Election 2000 is no way to elect the President – the most powerful position in the world. For the sake of our democracy, it is imperative that Election Reform be the top priority of every Member of Congress, and every American. As the world’s oldest and leading democracy, the outcome of our elections should never be in doubt. We must ensure that every vote cast is counted and that everyone who is eligible to vote is allowed to vote. Election reform is not a black issue or white issue, it is a red, white & blue issue. Voting is the most fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution and must be protected.
- Voter Education and Participation. African-Americans turned out to vote in Election 2000 in record numbers, many for the first time. This accomplishment, however, was undercut by allegations of voter intimidation, inaccurate voter registration lists, flawed
ballot designs, and antiquated voting machinery. All of these problems led to confusion before, during and after the election. The CBC will partner with state & local governments, civic & religious organizations and higher education institutions to prevent voter intimidation, as well as to enhance and improve voter registration, education and participation.
- Congress Must Act. Congress has the power, authority and absolute obligation to assure that the apparent disenfranchisement does not ever happen again. The CBC is committed to passing a strong and effective election reform package. Legislation should address ballot design, modern voting machines, an accurate vote-counting mechanism that allows for recounts, the restoration of voting rights for ex-offenders, assistance for bilingual and disabled persons who vote, and ensure the most accurate voter registration rolls on election day so that every one who is eligible to vote can vote, and have that vote counted.
Establish the United States Public Service Academy.
Thompson co-sponsored establishing the United States Public Service Academy
Introductory statement by Sponsor:
Sen. CLINTON: I rise today to introduce legislation that will create an undergraduate institution designed to cultivate a generation of young leaders dedicated to public service. The US Public Service Academy Act (The PSA Act) will form a national academy to serve as an extraordinary example of effective, national public education.
The tragic events of September 11 and the devastation of natural disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita underscore how much our Nation depends on strong public institutions and competent civilian leadership at all levels of society. Congress must take a step forward to ensure competent civilian leadership and improve our Nation's ability to respond to future emergencies and to confront daily challenges.
This legislation will create the US Public Service Academy to groom future public servants and build a corps of capable civilian leaders. Modeled after the military service academies, this academy
will provide a four-year, federally-subsidized college education for more than 5,000 students a year in exchange for a five year commitment to public service.
The PSA Act will meet critical national needs as the baby-boomer generation approaches retirement. Already, studies show looming shortages in the Federal civil service, public education, law enforcement, the non-profit sector and other essential areas.
Unfortunately our young people are priced out of public service careers all too often. By providing a service-oriented education at no cost to the student, the PSA Act will tap into the strong desire to serve that already exists among college students while erasing the burden of enormous college debt.
The establishment of a United States Public Service Academy is an innovative way to strengthen and protect America by creating a corps of well-trained, highly-qualified civilian leaders. I am hopeful that my Senate colleagues from both sides of the aisle will join me today.
Source: United States Public Service Academy Act (S.960 & HR.1671) 07-HR1671 on Mar 23, 2007
Ban stock trading based on Congressional insider knowledge.
Thompson co-sponsored STOCK Act
Congressional Summary:Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK Act): Amends the Securities Exchange Act and the Commodity Exchange Act to prohibit purchase or sale of either securities or commodities by a person in possession of material nonpublic information regarding pending or prospective legislative action.
- Amends the Ethics in Government Act to require formal disclosure of certain securities and commodities futures transactions.
- Amends the Lobbying Disclosure Act to subject to its registration, reporting, and disclosure requirements all political intelligence activities, contacts, firms, and consultants.
Bill explanation (ProCon.org, "Insider Trading by Congress", Feb. 3, 2012):
Source: H1148/S1871 11-S1871 on Nov 15, 2011
- On Mar. 17, 2011, Tim Walz (D-MN) introduced the STOCK Act where it gained nine co-sponsors by Nov. 4, 2011.
- On Nov. 13, 2011, the TV show "60 Minutes" reported that several members of
Congress allegedly used insider information for personal gain. The STOCK Act received 84 additional House co-sponsors in the five days following the report, and Scott Brown (R-MA) filed the STOCK Act in the Senate on Nov. 15, 2011. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) also filed a variation of the STOCK Act in the Senate on Nov. 17, 2011.
- On Jan. 24, 2012, in his State of the Union Address, President Obama said "Send me a bill that bans insider trading by members of Congress, and I will sign it tomorrow."
- Immediately after the speech, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters, "I think people should have enough sense not to do it [insider trading] without legislation, but I will support legislation."
- On Feb. 2, 2012, a revised version of the STOCK Act passed in the Senate by a vote of 96-3 with Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Tom Coburn (R-OK), and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) dissenting.
Statehood for the District of Columbia.
Thompson co-sponsored H.R.317
Congressional Summary: Sets forth procedures for admission into the United States of the state of New Columbia.
- Requires the Mayor of the District of Columbia to submit to the voters propositions for statehood and adoption of a State Constitution, and issue a proclamation for the first elections to Congress of two Senators and one Representative of New Columbia.
- Requires the President to issue a proclamation announcing the results and admitting New Columbia into the Union.
- Provides for conversion of District government offices to state offices.
Opponents reasons for voting NAY: (DCist.com, Sept. 2014): The Argument Against: Congress does not have the authority to grant statehood to D.C.; the 23rd amendment, which gave D.C. three electoral votes, would have to be repealed before statehood was granted. Washington is a wholly urban, one-industry town, dependent on the federal government far in excess of any other state.
Moreover, with Congress no longer having authority over New Columbia but dependent on it, New Columbia could exert influence on the federal government far in excess of any other state.
Supporters reasons for voting YEA: [Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC; the District of Columbia has one representative to Congress and no Senators; Rep. Holmes can introduce bills but her vote does not count]: This 51st state would have no jurisdiction over the federal territory or enclave that now consists of the Washington that Members of Congress and visitors associate with the capital of our country. Those would remain under federal jurisdiction. The New Columbia Admission Act was the first bill I introduced in 1991. Statehood is the only alternative for the citizens of the District of Columbia. To be content with less than statehood is to concede the equality of citizenship that is the birthright of our residents as citizens of the United States.
Source: New Columbia Admission Act 15_H317 on Jan 13, 2015
Automatic voter registration for all citizens.
Thompson co-sponsored H.R.12 & S.1088
- Require each state to make available official public websites for online voter registration.
- Authorizes automated voter registration and establishes same day registration, and voter registration of individuals under 18 years of age.
- Declares that the right to vote shall not be denied because that individual has been convicted of a criminal offense.
Supporters reasons for voting YEA: (BrennanCenter.org): Too many Americans go to vote on Election Day only to find their names are not on the voter rolls--often, wrongly deleted. The US is on the verge of a new paradigm for registering voters: automatic, permanent registration of eligible voters, which would add up to 50 million eligible voters to the rolls.
Opponents reasons for voting NAY: (Gov. Christie's veto message on the "Democracy Act", Nov. 2015): Christie called a provision establishing automatic voter registration that requires
New Jerseyan to opt out a "government-knows-best, backwards approach that would inconvenience citizens and waste government resources for no justifiable reason." Automatic voter registration would have added 1.6 million people to the state's voter rolls.
Source: Voter Empowerment Act 15-H12 on Mar 19, 2015
- TN-8: I have voted in every election federal, state or local that I chose to. If people want to vote there is nothing but laziness preventing them from doing so today! Regarding photo ID's you have one to drive, buy alcohol, and go to the doctor.
- AL-2: This bill is so general that anyone that is alive, has lived, or will live in this century will be able to vote as well as non-Americans, pets, people without voting rights, and some people multiple times.
- TN-3: This bill will surely bring about fixed voting in favor of the one who can cheat the most. How about having a voter photo card and a test to see if they are capable of voting and not just voting for whoever promises them more free stuff.
Holiday on election day; revamp for easier voting access.
Thompson voted YEA For the People Act of 2019
- This bill expands voter registration and voting access, makes Election Day a federal holiday, and limits removing voters from voter rolls.
- The bill provides for states to establish independent, nonpartisan redistricting commissions.
- The bill also sets forth provisions for sharing intelligence information with state election officials, and supporting states in securing their election systems, and establishing the National Commission to Protect U.S. Democratic Institutions.
- This bill addresses campaign spending, by expanding the ban on foreign nationals contributing to or spending on elections; and expanding disclosure rules.
- This bill establishes an alternative campaign funding system [with] federal matching of small contributions for qualified candidates.
- The bill also requires candidates for President and Vice President to submit 10 years of tax returns.
Opposing argument from the Heritage Foundation, 2/1/2019: HR1 federalizes and micromanages
the election process administered by the states, imposing unnecessary mandates on the states and reversing the decentralization of the American election process. What HR1 Would Do:
- Seize the authority of states to regulate the voting process by forcing states to implement early voting, automatic voter registration, same-day registration, online voter registration, and no-fault absentee balloting.
- Make it easier to commit fraud at the polls through same-day registration, as election officials have no time to verify the accuracy of voter registration.
- Degrade the accuracy of registration lists by automatically registering individuals from state databases, such as DMV.
- Cripple the effectiveness of state voter ID laws by allowing individuals to vote without an ID and merely signing a statement in which they claim they are who they say they are.
Legislative outcome: Passed House 234-193-5 on 3/8/19; received with no action in Senate thru 12/31/2019
Source: Supreme Court case 19-S949 argued on Jan 3, 2019
Page last updated: May 14, 2020