Women's museum advances in House

A House panel voted Wednesday to advance the creation of a National Women's History Museum in Washington.

The legislation would promote the museum, the fate of which has idled in Congress for almost two decades, even as museums dedicated to other groups — including Native Americans and African-Americans — have broken ground on the National Mall.

Supporters of the legislation, which passed the House Administration Committee by unanimous vote, say the time has come to acknowledge the contributions of women with a comprehensive memorial of the same prominence.

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"Women have contributed in every war effort, been inventors, been architects, business innovators and leaders in shaping America's politics," said Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), who heads the House Administration panel.

Passing the bill, Miller added, "would be an important step toward memorializing America's memory of the deep and enduring contributions women have made."

Sponsored by Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), the proposal would create an eight-member commission — appointed by bipartisan leaders in both the House and Senate — charged with examining the best way to open a women's history museum “on or near” the National Mall.

Within 18 months, the panel would report recommendations to Congress and the White House for building and maintaining the project. The commission's costs would be covered by private donations, not taxpayer dollars.

Rep. Robert Brady (Pa.), senior Democrat on the House Administration panel, was quick to endorse the measure. Brady suggested, however, that the commission should ultimately consist of more than eight members and include presidential appointees, as well.

"This would enhance the commission's chances of ultimate success," Brady said Wednesday.

The House Natural Resources Committee, which also has jurisdiction over the issue, is expected to approve the measure during a similar markup next week.

That would send the bill to the House floor, where Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has said he'll act on the measure this year.

A Senate companion bill, introduced last year by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), has 20 co-sponsors, including 17 of the Senate's 20 female lawmakers.

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