The vote in favor of the Smithsonian Women’s History Museum Act was largely bipartisan — 224 Democrats and 150 Republicans approved it. The 37 representatives who voted against it were all Republicans plus Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) and included Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) and Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.).
Nineteen members of Congress were not present for the vote.
Rep. Liz Cheney, who represents Wyoming — the first state or territory to give women the unconditional right to vote and hold office — was the only woman to vote against the measure. She is the highest-ranking woman in House Republican leadership and the daughter of former vice president Richard B. Cheney.
In a statement to The Washington Post, a spokesman for Cheney said, “She believes women’s accomplishments deserve to be honored in an equal manner, alongside those of men, as part of our great national story.”
He noted that Cheney “represents Wyoming, where generations of women have demonstrated grit, determination, courage and leadership in building our great state.”
The museum would include collections “relating to women’s contributions to various fields and throughout different periods of history that have influenced the direction of the United States” and “exhibitions and programs that recognize diverse perspectives on women’s history and contributions,” according to the text of the bill.
The bill describes three possibilities for the location of the museum:
1) The southeast corner of the Washington Monument area on the Mall, directly south of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
2) The Mall area northwest of the Capitol and east of the National Gallery of Art’s East Building.
3) An undetermined location, provided it is approved by a board of regents.
Of the 21 sites managed by the Smithsonian in the Washington metro area, only eight are not on the Mall, including the National Zoo, the Portrait Gallery and the Anacostia Community Museum.
Earlier this week, Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III tweeted about the difficulty in getting approval for the Mall location of National Museum of African American History and Culture. In 2006, Bunch was the director of the yet-to-be-built museum and was prepared to resign if the location wasn’t on the Mall, he said.
In 2006, I got great news. I'd be able to keep my job. I'd only been director of @NMAAHC for seven months but I was prepared to walk away if the Smithsonian selected an off-the-National-Mall site for the museum. With our spot on the Mall secured, I couldn't stop smiling. pic.twitter.com/8Eq2DpVjiR— Lonnie G. Bunch III (@SmithsonianSec) February 10, 2020
A companion bill will now head to the Senate. It is co-sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
“Telling the history of American women matters, and a museum recognizing these achievements and experiences is long overdue,” the senators said in a joint statement.
Even if the bill is signed into law as soon as possible, it will be a long time until any museum unveiling. The legislation for the African American museum passed in 2003; it didn’t open its doors until 13 years later, on Sept. 24, 2016.
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