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Utah Sen. Lee Opposes National Latino, Women’s Museums

Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee has decided that America does not need to recognize the contributions of Latinos or women to this country and has blocked the Senate from voting on legislation that would have established the National Museum of the American Latino and the American Women’s History Museum.

Lee on Thursday prevented the Senate from voting on bipartisan bills that would establish the two new museums under the umbrella of the Smithsonian Institution. In opposing the legislation Lee said there is too much “balkanization” in the U.S. and that “the last thing we need is to further divide an already divided nation within an array of separate but equal museums of hyphenated identity groups.” Instead, Lee said, the two groups would be better represented in the exiting Museum of American History.

To justify his position, Lee argued that museums for African Americans and Native Americans were built because those groups were subjected to systemic racism and their stories in history were erased. He said Latinos have not been subject to systemic racism, an argument rejected by New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, who cosponsored the bill along with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“This has been a 20-plus year journey to try and make this museum possible, and one Republican colleague stands in the way,” said Menendez. “It’s pretty outrageous.”

“We have been systematically excluded. We have been systemically excluded. We, who founded the oldest city in America before there was a United States of America. We, who were ultimately used as farmworkers and discriminated against in the Bracero program. We, who were discriminated against when we voluntarily joined the Armed Forces of the United States to defend the nation,” Menendez said on the Senate floor. “And the only righteous way to end that exclusion is to pass this bill.”

Lee also blocked approval of the women’s museum, a move that Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) called a “sad moment.”

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)

Photo credit: Joy Holder/Wikimedia Commons

“Surely in a year where we’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, this is the time, this is the moment to finally pass the legislation unanimously recommended by an independent commission to establish an American Women’s History Museum in our nation’s capital,” Collins said. “I regret that will not occur this evening, but we will not give up the fight.”

New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lit up the Utah Republican on Twitter for wasting time on the issue instead of working toward a COVID relief package.

Bills to establish both museums already have passed in the House of Representatives.



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