House to vote next week on bill to create women's history museum

House to vote next week on bill to create women's history museum
© Greg Nash

The House is expected to vote next week on legislation to establish a women's history museum in the nation's capital, in a victory for female lawmakers who have been pursuing the effort for years.

A spokeswoman for House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyMaloney primary challenger tests positive for coronavirus House Democrats plead with key committee chairman to allow remote voting amid coronavirus pandemic Brady PAC endorses Biden, plans to spend million in 2020 MORE (D-N.Y.), the author of the legislation, confirmed Friday that the vote is slated for next week.

It will come the same week that the House is expected to vote on a resolution to remove the deadline to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to prohibit discrimination based on sex.

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Maloney's bill, which is poised to pass easily with bipartisan support, states that "establishing a comprehensive women’s history museum representing a diverse range of viewpoints, experience, and backgrounds is necessary to more accurately depict the history of the United States and would add value to the Smithsonian Institution."

Maloney first proposed the idea of a women's history museum on or near the National Mall in the 1990s and has pushed for its creation in the decades since. It wasn't until 2014 that her bill to establish a privately funded commission to study the idea of building a women's history museum became law.

That commission issued a report in 2016 affirming that such a museum should be built and offering recommendations for its structure, content and fundraising.

Maloney's legislation to establish the museum currently has 293 co-sponsors, including 60 Republicans.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerProcedural politics: What just happened with the coronavirus bill? DC argues it is shortchanged by coronavirus relief bill Lysol, disinfecting wipes and face masks mark coronavirus vote in House MORE (D-Md.) confirmed in a tweet on Friday that Maloney's bill will come to the floor under a fast-track process requiring a two-thirds majority for passage, a threshold it's expected to meet easily given the number of co-sponsors.

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Maloney previously introduced a similar bill in 2017 -— while Republicans still controlled the House — to establish a women's history museum within the Smithsonian Institution, but it didn't go anywhere despite having 257 co-sponsors in both parties.

But Maloney's bill is on a fast track to passage next week now that Democrats control the House and while she currently chairs one of the chamber's most powerful committees.

Maloney in November became the first woman to chair the Oversight Committee following the death of the panel's previous chairman, Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsMaryland postpones primary over coronavirus fears Maryland governor: 'Simply not enough supplies' on hand to tackle coronavirus Meadows joins White House facing reelection challenges MORE (D-Md.).

While Maloney's bill in 2014 to create a commission to study building a women's museum passed with 383 votes in favor, 33 conservative Republicans voted against it out of concerns that it would ultimately require taxpayer funding and lead to exhibits focusing too much on women who promoted abortion rights.

The commission's 2016 report noted that "the goal of this museum is to present a wide spectrum of American women’s experiences in a way that appeals to a diverse audience." It recommended that "potentially controversial topics and exhibits should be presented with consideration of all ideological viewpoints, thereby allowing viewers a fuller contextual understanding of the topic."

The commission's report also stated that private funds should finance the museum's construction.

Hoyer also announced that the House will vote on Thursday on a resolution to remove the deadline for ratification of the ERA.

The Virginia state legislature in January voted to ratify the ERA, becoming the 38th state to do so. But the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel argued in an opinion released last month that the deadline to ratify the ERA has expired since Congress passed the proposed amendment in 1972.

"We conclude that Congress had the constitutional authority to impose a deadline on the ratification of the ERA and, because that deadline has expired, the ERA Resolution is no longer pending before the States," the Justice Department opinion stated.