Lawmakers call for including creation of Latino, women's history museums in year-end spending deal

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is calling on congressional leaders to include legislation that would create Smithsonian museums dedicated to Latino and women's history as part of the year-end government spending package.

Legislation to keep the government funded past Friday, Dec. 18, is expected to be unveiled as soon as Tuesday. The bill is also expected to serve as a legislative vehicle for COVID-19 relief since it needs to be passed by Friday to avoid a government shutdown.

Members of the House and Senate from both parties acknowledged the "delicate nature of ongoing negotiations" over the spending package but argued that the largely noncontroversial museum proposals should be part of what's expected to be the final major bill that Congress passes this year.


"We believe this represents our last best hope in seeing these museums become a reality for millions of Americans who lack historical and cultural representation within the Smithsonian," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to House and Senate party leaders.

The letter was signed by Reps. José Serrano (D-N.Y.), Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyHow ERA is good for the economy Wray suggests limits on FBI social media tracking a 'lesson learned' after Jan. 6 Trump, allies pressured DOJ to back election claims, documents show MORE (D-N.Y.), Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdFirst Democrat jumps into key Texas House race to challenge Gonzales Will the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Congress drawn into pipeline cyberattack, violence in Israel MORE (R-Texas) and Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Overnight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 COVID-19 long-haulers press Congress for paid family leave MORE (R-Pa.), as well as Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSchumer says Senate will vote on repealing 2002 war authorization The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week Sanders drops bid to block Biden's Israel arms sale MORE (D-N.J.), John CornynJohn CornynBlack lawmakers warn against complacency after Juneteenth victory The Senate is where dreams go to die Federal government to observe Juneteenth holiday on Friday MORE (R-Texas), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsPortman: Republicans are 'absolutely' committed to bipartisan infrastructure bill Democratic clamor grows for select committee on Jan. 6 attack Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting MORE (R-Maine) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinYouth climate activists march outside California homes of Pelosi and Feinstein Cosmetic chemicals need a makeover Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema MORE (D-Calif.).

The House has passed versions of the bills to create the Latino and women's history museums with bipartisan support.

The House passed a bill, authored by Serrano, to establish a Smithsonian National Museum of the American Latino by voice vote in July.

And in February, the House passed legislation 374-37 to create a women's history museum that has been championed for two decades by Maloney, the first woman to chair the House Oversight and Reform Committee.


But Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC GOP senators press Justice Department to compare protest arrests to Capitol riot MORE (R-Utah) blocked the legislation Thursday, arguing that creating new museums dedicated to those groups would exacerbate national divisions. He suggested that he would support more representation of Latinos and women within the existing Smithsonian Museum of American History.

"Within the walls of a Smithsonian museum just like at the National Gallery of Art or the great memorials that dot this city, there is no us and them. There's only us. And so my objection to the creation of a new Smithsonian museum or series of museums based on group identity, what Theodore Roosevelt called hyphenated Americanism, is not a matter of budgetary or legislative technicalities. It is a matter of national unity and cultural inclusion," Lee said.

"I understand what my colleagues are trying to do and why. I respect what they're trying to do. I even share their interests in ensuring that these stories are told. But the last thing we need is to further divide an already divided nation within an array of separate but equal museums of hyphenated identity groups," Lee added.

A bipartisan group of senators unveiled a two-part $908 billion COVID-19 relief package on Monday with another round of Paycheck Protection Program assistance for small businesses, unemployment insurance, and funding for schools and vaccine distribution while separating the more nettlesome issues of state and local government funding and liability protections for businesses into another measure.

It remains unclear, however, if congressional leaders will take up the bipartisan proposal.