Democrats bullish on bill to create women’s history museum: ‘It’s an election year’

Greg Nash

House Democrats predicted on the eve of a floor vote to create a national women’s history museum that the decades-long effort would finally be signed into law this year given both parties’ need to appeal to women in the November elections.

The House is slated to easily pass legislation on Tuesday that would establish a women’s history museum within the Smithsonian Institution, the culmination of an effort by House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) spanning back to 1998.

It wasn’t until 2014 that the House passed a bipartisan bill led by Maloney that created a commission to study the idea of a women’s history museum on or near the National Mall. That commission produced a report in 2016 with recommendations for building such a museum.

Maloney introduced a bill in 2017 similar to the one up for a vote this week to create the proposed museum, but it didn’t advance in the then-GOP-controlled House.

Neither Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) nor President Trump has committed to supporting the legislation at this point. Aides to McConnell and Trump didn’t offer additional guidance when asked for comment on Monday.

When asked about the path forward for the bill, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) noted that women are expected to make up more than half the electorate in 2020. Eligible female voters have consistently voted at higher rates than men in recent elections.

“That will have a real telling on the Senate and on the president,” Hoyer said.

“It’s an election year. I don’t see how you can fail to pass this bill in the Senate during an election year,” added Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the District of Columbia’s nonvoting member of Congress.

Maloney said that she plans to meet Tuesday with Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the authors of a Senate companion bill to create the women’s museum, about the path forward in the upper chamber. But she predicted that Trump, whose eponymous tower in Manhattan is located in Maloney’s district, would ultimately back the bill.

“I firmly believe that the president of the United States would support it,” Maloney said.

Maloney’s bill in 2014 to create a privately funded commission to study the concept of a women’s history museum passed with widespread bipartisan support. But 33 conservative Republicans voted against it, citing concerns that the proposal would ultimately need taxpayer funding and focus too much on women who advocated for abortion rights.

The legislation scheduled for a vote on Tuesday currently has 293 co-sponsors, including 60 Republicans.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), one of the lead co-sponsors of Maloney’s bill, expressed hope that it would pass “unanimously.”

“We can send a very strong message to the Senate to pick up this bill,” Fitzpatrick said.

House Democrats are trying to hammer their own message this week with legislation meant to boost women as the presidential primary season moves through the early state contests. 

In addition to the bill to create a women’s history museum, the House will also vote on a resolution on Thursday to remove the ratification deadline to add the Equal Rights Amendment prohibiting discrimination based on gender to the Constitution.

Maloney argued that there should be a museum dedicated to documenting women’s history given the wealth of other museums in Washington focusing on all sorts of historical topics.

“This all began one day I was walking around the Mall. And I was looking at the museums. And they have postage stamps, they have law and order, they have spies, they have textiles, they have everything. And they’re all very enriching and important institutions. But I found myself asking, ‘Where are the women?'” she said.

Tags Brian Fitzpatrick Carolyn Maloney Dianne Feinstein Donald Trump Eleanor Holmes Norton Mitch McConnell National Mall Smithsonian Smithsonian Institution Steny Hoyer Susan Collins Women's History Museum
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