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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.

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"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 MaloneyLawmakers line up behind potential cyber breach notification legislation DeJoy apologizes for mail delays while defending Postal Service changes House panel spars over GameStop frenzy, trading apps MORE (D-N.Y.), Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHere are the three GOP lawmakers who voted for the Equality Act Sunday shows - COVID-19 dominates as grim milestone approaches Former Texas GOP rep: Trump should hold very little or no role in Republican Party MORE (R-Texas) and Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickTaylor Swift celebrates House passage of Equality Act Here are the three GOP lawmakers who voted for the Equality Act House passes sweeping protections for LGBTQ people MORE (R-Pa.), as well as Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezBiden holds off punishing Saudi crown prince, despite US intel Senate confirms Thomas-Greenfield as UN ambassador The Memo: Biden bets big on immigration MORE (D-N.J.), John CornynJohn CornynBottom line This week: Senate takes up coronavirus relief after minimum wage setback Senate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill MORE (R-Texas), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate Democrats negotiating changes to coronavirus bill On The Money: Senators push for changes as chamber nears vote on .9T relief bill | Warren offers bill to create wealth tax GOP says Ron Klain pulling Biden strings MORE (R-Maine) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinProgressive support builds for expanding lower courts Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill What exactly are uber-woke educators teaching our kids? 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.

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But Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGOP senators question Amazon on removal of book about 'transgender moment' Judiciary Committee greenlights Garland's AG nomination CPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be 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.