In addition to providing a second round of stimulus checks to struggling families, along with small business support and improved unemployment benefits, the government’s long-awaited year-end deal will also fund two new museums in Washington. that honor American women and Latinos.
In the deal, which includes $ 900 billion in coronavirus relief and $ 1.4 trillion in government funding, Congress agreed to establish the National Museum of the American Latino and the American Women’s History Museum as part of the Smithsonian Institution. Funding for the two museums comes after Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) blocked separate bills for the institutions earlier this month, despite bipartisan support.
“At this time in the history of our diverse nation, we need our federal government and the Smithsonian Institution itself to bring us together, not separate us,” Lee told the Senate, while saying the country does did not need “separate but equal museums for linked identity groups.”
Lee’s argument immediately met with opposition from Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who called Lee’s objection to the legislation “outrageous,” and from Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine ), who said that “in a year when we” If we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, now is the time, now is the time to finally pass the legislation unanimously recommended by an independent commission to establish an American Women’s History Museum in our nation’s capital. “
The struggle to pass a bill for the two museums has continued for many years, with Collins being one of three senators who introduced a bill in 2003 to create a women’s history museum. Eleven years later, in 2014, a congressional commission finally recommended the construction of an American museum of women’s history in Washington, DC.
In 1994, a campaign to create a Latino museum began after a report revealed that the Smithsonian “displayed a pattern of willful neglect” of Latin Americans, reports The New York Times. In response to this report, the museum established a Smithsonian Latino Center in 1997. Then, in 2008, Congress established a commission to study the issue of “willful neglect” that was described in the report, which ultimately leads Congress to recommend the creation of a museum for Latin Americans.
On Monday, Menendez praised Congress for including a national museum for Latinos in its final annual spending bill, saying in a tweet that “this is a great victory for Latinos across our country.”
Congressman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who sponsored the Smithsonian Women’s History Museum Act, also praised Congress for including a national museum dedicated to women’s history in its year-end bill.
“For too long, women’s stories have been left out of telling our nation’s history,” she said in a statement, “but with this vote we are starting to rectify that. Americans of all ages deserve to see and be inspired by the remarkable women who have helped shape this nation. ”
The passage of this bill, Maloney pointed out, comes at a time when the United States celebrates the “centenary of the 19th Amendment and the year in which we elected our first female vice-president.”
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