With midterms behind us, members of Congress are now focused on appointing their colleagues to new leadership roles for the 112th Congress. As Democratic and Republican caucuses in both the U.S. House and Senate engage in establishing new Leaders and Chairs, speculation abounds regarding the fate of one-time Committee and subcommittee Chairs, particularly within the Congressional Black Caucus.
While there have been some hotly contested races in the works – last week’s show down between Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Democratic Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) comes to mind – by and large, many CBC members will assume the role of Ranking Member on the Committees they once chaired.
Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) is one such member who remains steadfast in his resolve to continue his legacy of service for which his constituents first elected him to Congress 17 years ago. Thompson, who became the first Democratic Chairman of the powerful Homeland Security Committee in 2006 is confident in his ability to continue his strong form of leadership as Ranking Member under a Republican majority.
“Fortunately,” he said in exclusive remarks to Politic365, “we have been able to craft a homeland security message that is fairly non-partisan. Rep. King and I have worked together for some time and share many of the same concerns when it comes to the security of our nation. I remain confident that this Committee will continue its work to ensure a more secure and resilient nation.”
Given his long-term tenure in Congress and his acclaimed leadership of the Homeland Security Committee, Thompson intends to maintain a strong voice in his work advocating on behalf of, and legislating for, the American people. “Going forward, I will continue to hold the Department accountable to Congress and the American people,” he said. “My colleagues and I will continue our vigorous oversight work and ensure that we leave no stone unturned as we secure the homeland.”
When asked to share his perspective on what this new balance of power meant for him and his colleagues in the CBC, Congressman Thompson responded as one would expect, given his affable and charismatic personality. “It’s no secret that there is no replacement for being in charge,” he said, “we’ve proven that the past four years.
“However,” he said, “as many of us become ‘Ranking Member’ rather than ‘Chairman,’ our focus will remain steadfast. Elections have consequences and this change is one of those consequences. Many of us have been around long enough to experience several power shifts. As battle-tested legislators, we will find a way to succeed.”
Congressman Thompson’s optimism is a reflection of his understanding of the important role that the CBC can and must continue to play in Congress, regardless of whose hands hold the majority.
“We understand that the economy has to be a priority. The American people want us to provide solutions that will make it easier for them to support their families, send their children to college and have a high quality of life. As the conscience of the Congress, we’ll do our level best to make sure that happens.”