This week, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) made the “unilateral decision to end legislative activity in the Senate.” In co-opting complete control of Senate business, DeMint has picked up the mantle of veteran obstructionist Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) in blocking any bill that does not meet his personal “parameters.” Now, both Coburn and DeMint have joined forces to target a bill celebrating women’s history.
In a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Coburn and DeMint decided to place a “hold” on a bill “that would sell land near the Smithsonian Institution for the National Women’s History Museum.” The bill, which would allow a private group to use private funds to purchase the land, passed the House last year and has bipartisan support in the Senate. However, the two senators cite three objections to this “laudable undertaking”: taxpayer burden, abortion politics, and redundancy:
The senators say their concerns are financial: Though the museum would pay fair market value for the land, the group has raised little money. And they said the new institution would duplicate more than 100 similar museums — some of which already get taxpayer subsidies.
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.”[...]
In their hold letter to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the GOP senators said the museum was “a laudable undertaking.” But while the museum isn’t asking for a subsidy now, Coburn and DeMint said “taxpayers simply cannot be guaranteed of this in the future.”
The reasons behind the hold “just don’t hold water.” First, as stated on the National Women’s History Museum organization’s (NWHM) website, the federal government “is not underwriting the cost of this museum with taxpayer dollars. It rests upon NWHM “to raise no less than $150 million to build this museum privately.” Secondly, according to NWHM CEO Joan Wages, there will be no reproductive rights exhibit because “we have to raise $400 million. We cannot afford, literally, to focus on issues that are divisive.”
And, as the New York Times’s Gail Collins revealed Sunday, the redundancy argument completely dries out under scrutiny. When asked what entities the new museum would duplicate, Coburn suggested that quilters and cowgirls were sufficient to tell the entire story of American women:
The office sent me a list of the entities in question. They include the Quilters Hall of Fame in Indiana, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Texas and the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens in Washington.
There also were a number of homes of famous women and some fine small collections of exhibits about a particular locality or subject. But, really, Senator Coburn’s list pretty much proved the point that this country really needs one great museum that can chart the whole, big amazing story.
Both Coburn and DeMint are notoriously and predictably anti-women’s rights. Both voted against an amendment allowing justice for sexual assault victims and opposed a rape victim’s right to seek an abortion. In fact, Coburn has registered his belief that health coverage for mammograms is purely “political” and abortion is part of the “gay agenda” whose practitioners deserve the “death penalty.” It is unfortunately predictable that such contempt for the health and security of American women would translate into contempt for the history.
Having sufficiently relegated women’s history to blankets and lilacs, Coburn selected animals as a new target today. On the Senate floor this morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) asked unanimous consent to pass the Crane Conservation Act, the Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance amendments, the Great Cats and Rare Canids Act, the Shark Conservation Act, and the Southern Sea Otter Recovery and Research Act. Coburn objected to each request.