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GOP senator blocks Smithsonian Latino, women's history museums

GOP senator blocks Smithsonian Latino, women's history museums
© Greg Nash

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeBiden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  Hillicon Valley: Biden nominates former NSA deputy director to serve as cyber czar | Apple to send witness to Senate hearing after all | Biden pressed on semiconductor production amid shortage Apple to send witness to Senate hearing after pushback from Klobuchar, Lee MORE (R-Utah) on Thursday blocked legislation for the creation of a Smithsonian National Museum of the American Latino as well as legislation for the creation of a women's history museum during a Senate hearing on the matter.

Lee objected to the legislation, stating that the creation of new museums dedicated to the groups would create division within America.

"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."

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Lee went on to say that he would support more representation of the Latino community and women's contribution to American history within the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

"If American Latino or women's history are being under appropriated at the Museum of American History, that is a problem and that's a problem we should address here. I'll happily work ... to correct those problems, even if it means more money, more exhibits, new floors, or wings. 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."

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who is a co-sponsor of the bipartisan legislation for the Latino museum and presented his case for the museum before the Senate, argued that Lee made the wrong decision.

"The one chance we have since this has been a 20-plus year journey to try to make this museum possible, one Republican colleague stands in the way," Menenedez retorted. "It's pretty outrageous."

Lee also objected to Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsModerates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate confirms Mallory to lead White House environment council | US emissions dropped 1.7 percent in 2019 | Interior further delays Trump rule that would make drillers pay less to feds Anti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle MORE's (R-Maine) push for a women's history museum.

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"I think this is a sad moment, I had hoped that we could proceed with both of these bills and pass them before the end of the year," Collins said.

"Surely in a year where we're celebrating the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage, this is the time, this is the moment to finally pass the legislation unanimously recommended by an independent commission to establish an American Women's History Museum in our nation's capital," Collins added. "I regret that will not occur this evening, but we will not give up the fight." 

Legislation for the creation of a Smithsonian museum to honor the Latin Amiercan community was introduced in the lower chamber by Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.) and passed with 295 co-sponsors in July.

It moved forward with a unanimous vote the Senate Rules Committee earlier this month.