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Utah senator blocks nationwide museums for Latinos, girls



FILE – On this Nov. 10, 2020, file photograph, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, speaks throughout a Senate Judiciary Committee listening to on Capitol Hill in Washington. Lee objected Thursday, Dec. 10, to the creation of the 2 proposed Smithsonian museums to honor American Latinos and girls, stalling two initiatives which have been within the making for many years and luxuriate in broad bipartisan help. (AP Picture/Susan Walsh, Pool, File)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A lone senator from Utah has singlehandedly blocked the bipartisan approval of two new nationwide museums to honor American Latinos and girls, arguing that “last item we’d like is to additional divide an already divided nation.”

Republican Sen. Mike Lee objected Thursday to the creation of the 2 proposed Smithsonian museums, stalling two initiatives which have been within the making for many years and luxuriate in broad bipartisan help. Senate approval would have despatched the laws approving the Latino museum to President Donald Trump for his signature. The Senate was making an attempt to go the measures by voice vote, which requires each senator’s consent.

The dispute on the Senate ground got here amid the deadlock over a brand new coronavirus aid invoice and highlighted the issue of reaching even broadly supported objectives within the polarized Congress. Lawmakers may nonetheless discover a approach to transfer ahead on the creation of the museums, together with by including the payments to a must-pass spending bundle, however doing so may additional complicate passage of that laws.

Lee’s transfer got here after his Republican colleagues had spoken in favor of the efforts. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who authored the laws to create the Nationwide Museum of the American Latino with New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat, mentioned simply earlier than Lee’s objection that it was an effort 25 years within the making.

“Many People merely aren’t conscious of the huge contributions made by these women and men who’ve come earlier than us, and one crucial method we are able to proper this improper is by offering a house for his or her tales within the nation’s capital,” Cornyn mentioned.

Objecting, Lee countered that time, saying the creation of museums that commemorate particular person teams “weaponizes variety.”

“Particularly on the finish of such a fraying, fracturing 12 months, Congress shouldn’t splinter one of many nationwide institutional cornerstones of our distinct nationwide id,” Lee mentioned, including that such nationwide division “has turned our faculty campuses into grievance pageants and loosed Orwellian mobs to cancel anybody daring to specific an unique thought.”

Lee equally objected to laws by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to create a nationwide girls’s museum. Collins mentioned it was a “unhappy second” and that she had hoped the payments would transfer earlier than the tip of the 12 months. She mentioned she wouldn’t hand over the combat.

“Absolutely, in a 12 months the place we’re celebrating the a hundredth anniversary of girls’s suffrage, that is the time, that is the second,” Collins mentioned.

Lee mentioned he sees an exception for museums devoted to American Indians and African People that already sit on the Nationwide Mall. He mentioned these teams had been “primarily written out of our nationwide story and even had their very own tales nearly erased” by the U.S. authorities, subsequently it’s “uniquely applicable that the federal authorities present the funding to get better and inform these communities’ particular tales right this moment at devoted museums within the particular context of getting been so lengthy excluded.”

Furious, Menendez pointed to a 1994 inner examination by the Smithsonian — the impetus for the trouble to create the museum — that described “willful neglect” on the a part of the establishment towards Hispanic and Latino tradition.

“We now have been systematically excluded, not as a result of this senator mentioned so however as a result of the Smithsonian itself mentioned so,” Menendez mentioned.

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