The Hill: House votes to study women's museum

May 7, 2014
In The News

The House on Wednesday in an overwhelming 383-33 vote approved a measure to create a commission to study building a national women's history museum, despite concerns from some conservatives.

The bill would set an 18-month timeline for an eight-member panel to report recommendations for bringing a women's history museum on or near the National Mall.

All of the votes in opposition came from Republicans.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who has pushed for creating a women's history museum since 1998, said her partnership with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) allowed fore the lopsided vote.

“The appreciation of women's history transcends party lines,” Maloney told The Hill in an interview.

Blackburn said the museum would provide a comprehensive history of American women.

“We know that it is important to tell that story of what women have done in the cause of freedom,” Blackburn said. “Wouldn't it be great if we had a museum that told that story?”

Under the proposal, the cost of the commission and building the museum would be funded by private donations. Maloney said that $15 million has already been raised, mostly from small contributions.

“It will not cost taxpayers one single cent. It didn't cost anything in the past, it doesn't today, and it will not in the future use any federal funding,” Maloney said.

The bill was brought up under an expedited procedure known as suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority. 

Multiple groups, including Heritage Action and Concerned Women for America, urged opposition to the measure.

Heritage Action said it would negatively score votes in favor of the commission, arguing the museum would focus too much on the feminist movement and ultimately require taxpayer funding.

Hours before the vote, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) stood up inside a meeting of the conservative Republican Study Committee to urge her colleagues to oppose the bill, on the grounds that the potential museum would honor “radical feminists” and women who promoted abortion rights.

Conservative views were mixed inside the closed-door RSC meeting, members said.

Blackburn spoke in favor of the bill, and a number of lawmakers said they planned to vote in favor of it.

“I really feel concerned that this museum will become a shrine to radical feminism, to pro-abortion ideology and will violate the principles that a lot of women hold,” Bachmann said in an interview.

She cited the proposed museum’s website, which promotes Margaret Sanger, who Bachmann called the “originator of the eugenics movement and of Planned Parenthood.”

Bachmann also mentioned the group’s plans to honor Victoria Woodhull, “who was an advocate of the free love movement in the 1960s,” she said.

Maloney noted during floor debate, however, that the commission would not establish the content of the museum.

Bachmann stressed that votes in opposition to the measure should not be construed as anti-women.

“All Republican women are pro-women and all Republican men that serve in this Congress are pro-women, as are the Democrat women and the Democrat men in this Congress,” Bachmann said.

Russell Berman contributed.