USA Today: House advances long-stalled Women's History Museum

May 7, 2014
In The News

The U.S. House overwhelmingly voted, 383-33,  to establish a bipartisan commission to make recommendations for building a National Women’s History Museum in Washington, D.C.

“It would be the first national women’s history museum in Washington, and the first in the United States of America and I believe the first in the entire world that would chronicle the important contributions of American women through America,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who co-sponsored the bipartisan legislation with Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.

Lawmakers were unmoved by a last-minute plea by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., to oppose the creation of the commission. All 33 of the “no” votes were cast by GOP lawmakers.

Bachmann argued that the museum would ignore conservative values such as opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage and would ultimately cost taxpayers — despite the fact that the 10-page bill clearly states that all activities related to the commission must be paid for by private funds. The commission also does not make recommendations on what the museum’s collection should include.

“I believe ultimately this museum that will be built on the National Mall, on federal land, will enshrine the radical feminist movement that stands against the pro-life movement, the pro-family movement, and pro-traditional marriage movement,” Bachmann said.

The vote is a small measure of progress for the creation of a museum first called for in a 1999 presidential commission on commemorating women in American history. Previous congressional efforts to advance the museum have failed.

The eight-member bipartisan commission, appointed by congressional leaders, would be tasked with providing reports to the president and Congress on how to raise the money and move forward with the construction within 18 months of their first meeting. The museum is estimated to cost $400 million.

Maloney said she’d like to break ground on the museum in time for the centennial in 2020 of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

A companion bill in the Senate by GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland has not yet received a vote in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, but Chairwoman Mary Landrieu, D-La., and ranking member Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, are both co-sponsors.

“A women’s history museum is long overdue in the nation’s capital,” Collins said in a statement urging the Senate to likewise advance the bill. “The museum, which will be built at no expense to the American taxpayer, would help ensure that future generations understand what we owe to the many generations of American women that helped build, sustain, and advance our society.”