House to vote on creation of Smithsonian Latino museum
The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote later this month on a bill to create a Smithsonian National Museum of the American Latino, a significant step forward in a quarter-century campaign.
The bill was placed on the House floor schedule for July 27 by Majority leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). It would compel the Smithsonian to begin an 18-month feasibility study for the museum, and to select a site location on the National Mall.
It would also trigger a search for funds by the museum’s proponents, who under the bill would need to raise half of the museum’s total cost, while the federal government would fund the other half.
“This is the pivotal moment for the American Latino Museum campaign that has been in the works since 1994. It’s not across the finish line yet, but we’re very close,” said Estuardo Rodríguez, president and CEO of Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino.
Setting up the museum would cost nearly $700 million, according to estimates by its proponents. The last museum built on the National Mall by the Smithsonian was the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which at the time of its opening in 2016 carried a bill of $540 million.
The Latino Museum bill is expected to pass easily in the House, as it currently has 295 bipartisan co-sponsors. It would then need to pass the Senate, where the legislation has top-level sponsors on both sides of the aisle, including former Majority Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).
Still, the museum’s proponents are hedging their optimism, as the bipartisan initiative has suffered legislative setbacks since 1994.
The African American Museum was originally proposed in the 1920s, seriously considered in the 1970s, and only opened in 2016.
If the bill passes both chambers of Congress, it will move to Trump’s desk.
“This is an easy one for President Trump. He can follow the work of [former President] George W. Bush, who signed the first Latino museum legislation into law in 2008,” said Rodríguez.
The bill could show up on Trump’s desk shortly ahead of an election in which the president is making a strong appeal to the Latino electorate.
“Clearly it’s an opportunity for Trump to demonstrate his support for a complete telling of American history,” said Rodríguez.
“The last thing we would ever want to do was send the message that this was just about the Latino community. This is about American history as a whole,” he added.