GOP senators block National Women’s History Museum, too

GOP SENATORS BLOCK NATIONAL WOMEN’S HISTORY MUSEUM, TOO…. When the Senate’s two most right-wing members — Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) — block the legislative process because they hate the Democratic policy agenda, their motivations aren’t especially mysterious. But their decision to block the National Women’s History Museum is just dumb.

Gail Collins wrote about this the other day, noting that a simple bill clearing the way for the museum was already approved by the House, but like everything else, is tied up in the Senate. The proposal intends to sell an unused piece of federal land to a private group, which would use private funds to pay fair market value for the land and construction. If financing falls apart, the land property would simply revert back to federal ownership.

…Washington already has a postal museum, a textile museum, a spy museum and the Newseum. You may be wondering why there is any problem getting Congressional support for a women’s history museum. Especially since the bill has already passed the House unanimously and come out of its Senate committee with unanimous approval. And since the bill, which is sponsored in the Senate by Susan Collins of Maine, has 23 co-sponsors from both parties. The Senate itself passed a different version of the plan unanimously a few years ago when the museum people were hoping to lease a government building rather than construct a new one.

The answer — and, people, how many times have you heard this story? — is that two senators, Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, have put holds on the bill.

So, what’s the problem? For Coburn, the argument rests in part on the notion that there are other “similar” museums, and this one would likely “duplicate” the institution. As proof, the senator’s office pointed to the Quilters Hall of Fame in Indiana. Think about that — Tom Coburn thinks the National Women’s History Museum in the nation’s capital is unnecessary in part because of a museum for quilters several hundred miles away. (Dear Tom, women have contributed far more to American life than just quilts. Sincerely, Steve.)

As for DeMint, the religious right told him to intervene.

Abortion politics are also in play: The senators’ action came two days after the Concerned Women for America, a conservative group, wrote DeMint asking for a hold. The group’s CEO, Penny Nance, wrote in July that the museum would “focus on abortion rights without featuring any of the many contributions of the pro-life movement in America.”

Noting the far-right senators’ consistent opposition to measures related to women and women’s rights, Kate Conway concluded, “The question is not why Senators Coburn and DeMint are blocking this no-brainer of a bill, but rather why we would ever expect a person who has scorned issues like mammograms and recourse for rape victims — issues so immediate and vital to the well-being of American women — to think that an institution dedicated to those women would be worthwhile.”

While this was supposed to be one of the non-controversial bills to be approved this year, there’s now a fairly good chance Coburn and DeMint will kill the measure, and museum backers will have to try again next year.