Utah senator blocks national museums for Latinos, women

FILE - In this Nov. 10, 2020, file photo, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Lee objected Thursday, Dec. 10, to the creation of the two proposed Smithsonian museums to honor American Latinos and women, stalling two projects that have been in the making for decades and enjoy broad bipartisan support. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A lone senator from Utah has singlehandedly blocked the bipartisan approval of two new national museums to honor American Latinos and women, arguing that “last thing we need is to further divide an already divided nation.”

Republican Sen. Mike Lee objected Thursday to the creation of the two proposed Smithsonian museums, stalling two projects that have been in the making for decades and enjoy broad bipartisan support. Senate approval would have sent the legislation approving the Latino museum to President Donald Trump for his signature. The Senate was attempting to pass the measures by voice vote, which requires every senator’s consent.

The dispute on the Senate floor came amid the impasse over a new coronavirus relief bill and highlighted the difficulty of achieving even widely supported goals in the polarized Congress. Lawmakers could still find a way to move forward on the creation of the museums, including by adding the bills to a must-pass spending package, but doing so could further complicate passage of that legislation.

Lee’s move came after his Republican colleagues had spoken in favor of the efforts. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who authored the legislation to create the National Museum of the American Latino with New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat, said just before Lee’s objection that it was an effort 25 years in the making.

Many Americans simply aren’t aware of the vast contributions made by these men and women who have come before us, and one critical way we can right this wrong is by providing a home for their stories in the nation’s capital,” Cornyn said.

Objecting, Lee countered that point, saying the creation of museums that celebrate individual groups “weaponizes diversity.”

“Especially at the end of such a fraying, fracturing year, Congress should not splinter one of the national institutional cornerstones of our distinct national identity,” Lee said, adding that such national division “has turned our college campuses into grievance pageants and loosed Orwellian mobs to cancel anyone daring to express an original thought.”

Lee similarly objected to legislation by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to create a national women’s museum. Collins said it was a “sad moment” and that she had hoped the bills would move before the end of the year. She said she would not give up the fight.

“Surely, in a year where we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, this is the time, this is the moment,” Collins said.

Lee said he sees an exception for museums dedicated to American Indians and African Americans that already sit on the National Mall. He said those groups were “essentially written out of our national story and even had their own stories virtually erased” by the U.S. government, therefore it is “uniquely appropriate that the federal government provide the funding to recover and tell those communities’ specific stories today at dedicated museums in the specific context of having been so long excluded.”

Livid, Menendez pointed to a 1994 internal examination by the Smithsonian — the impetus for the effort to create the museum — that described “willful neglect” on the part of the institution toward Hispanic and Latino culture.

We have been systematically excluded, not because this senator said so but because the Smithsonian itself said so,” Menendez said.

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  • KA December 11, 2020 at 12:26 pm Reply

    A misogynistic white Mormon guy? Shocking! What a tool.

  • L. Durand December 11, 2020 at 10:02 pm Reply

    Sen. Lee’s vote is what is divisive: excluding women and Latinos from our national museum.
    For shame!

  • Your Conscience December 11, 2020 at 11:37 pm Reply

    Question: are there museums dedicated solely to men? And yes, I’m going to ask it: are there museums dedicated solely to white people? No, there aren’t, and the reason why no male museums or white museums exist is because currently, it’s “cool” to hate men and whites. There aren’t any of these museums precisely because of the media-sponsored racialized and sexist violent freak show that’s promoted on the evening news every single day and night. How about taking pride in who we are as unique individuals? How about being proud of what we have accomplished and how our words and deeds have positively contributed to society? Instead, we’re blindly being used as the divisive tool of dirty corporations and bleeding heart “liberals” to further divide the American population. Wake up! and see how the media (including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc..) is manipulating you/us by using race and sex to achieve the chaos we witness daily, and the Communization/destruction of our great nation. Who cares what color you are?! Who cares if you choose to engage in homosexual acts?! Who cares if you’re a man or woman?!? “What did you bring to the table to help make things better for yourself and others?” ought to be the real question we ask ourselves at the end of the day.

  • White Female Utahn and American December 12, 2020 at 8:00 pm Reply

    I’m so disappointed and embarrassed at the twisted perspective that Senator Lee has. This would have a been a great opportunity to celebrate the uncelebrated in US history. And to answer a previous comment, “Why aren’t there any museums dedicated to white male Americans?” Because there are; most museums do exactly that because history has done exactly that, celebrated the biased accomplishments of the white male American. The forgotten and uncelebrated should be recognized and celebrated for their quiet yet strong contribution to our country. Shame on our Senator for failing to recognize and make amends for this sad fact.

    • Your Conscience December 12, 2020 at 8:44 pm Reply

      How about we celebrate these people for what they have accomplished rather than the levels of melanin in their/our skin? We are stuck in a tautological racialized and sexist argument that continues to fan the flames of powerlessness as no one can change the events of 200+ years ago. Currently, many African nations sell their own people on slave blocks and we turn a blind eye, yet focus it once again on events from centuries ago. If everyone were as tenacious regarding the historical facts of how nations are destroyed from within rather than from outside forces, we could see that we are being conquered as that is precisely what is happening. While we fight with each other about the color of our skin, or whether someone is homosexual or heterosexual, or our biological sex, our rights and liberty are being silently auctioned off.

  • Barnabus December 13, 2020 at 2:12 pm Reply

    He would be on his knees if it was his savior Trump asking for his hair museum. Sen. Lee could not spend money fast enough if Trump ask. He should go the of Trump in four years. He is a prime example of backwards Utah and a worthless brat riding on his daddy’s coat tails. Sen. Lee is not his daddy.

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