New York City Council members will vote on Wednesday for a resolution to support the National Women's History Museum.
The Council resolution supports bipartisan federal bill H.R. 863, by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) urging the passage of its companion bill in the Senate.
The bill already passed the House of Representatives overwhelmingly with a vote of 383 to 33.
If passed by the Senate it would create a national commission to prepare a report containing recommendations for establishing and maintaining a National Women's History Museum. The NWHM would be on or near the National Mall and would be entirely supported by private donations. Under the bill, the eight member commission would have 18 months to produce a report and submit it to Congress for approval. The commission would analyze the costs to construct the museum, its operations and maintenance, acquiring its collections in perpetuity without reliance on federal funds. The commission would also study the Museum's effect on regional women's history-related museums and whether it should be part of the Smithsonian Institution
So what is the hold up? The bill has been stopped dead in its tracks because Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma are preventing the bill from going to the floor for an up or down vote.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the commission and the museum would have no significant impact on federal funding as the bill authorized the commission to raise private money to cover its costs, and a 501c3 organization is already raising the funds necessary to pay for the commission.
"They said no to a project that would not use any federal funds because they said they are worried that in the future there might be some federal funds spent somewhere, somehow. And I would say they have some nerve," Congresswoman Maloney said recently at a luncheon strategy session to help passage the bill through the Senate.
Sponsoring the resolution are City Council member Laurie Cumbo and Ben Kallos. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has said she will make it a priority to pass the resolution.
Attending a press conference about the resolution at New York's City Hall on Monday was Elizabeth Holtzman, the only woman elected to the city's comptroller's office, the only woman ever elected as district attorney in King's county, and the youngest woman ever elected to the United States Congress.
"I remember when legislation was introduced for the Holocaust museum, there was no objection and the museum was ultimately built, and look what it has done to transform the whole issue of genocide in this country and around the world. People have a much deeper understanding of the horrors. And how many school children have gone through, and how many tourists have gone through and how many visitors from every corner of the globe have benefited from that museum?" said Holtzman.
Holtzman added, "What are these two senators ashamed of? What are they afraid of? Think of the women in this country who would make anybody proud. They are from the West, women held to settle the West. And women's rights were advanced first in the West. Are they ashamed of their mothers? Are they ashamed of their sisters? They're ashamed of their daughters? This is an outrage. A woman's museum will help educated boys as well as girls, men as well as women. A woman's museum is a way of showing that every person on this globe has potential."
Maloney told The New York Times in March she first proposed the project in the late 1990s, and while there other museums devoted to women in particular fields like the arts, there is not one that chronicles "the overall contribution of women in politics, civic life, war, science and other fields."
Maloney said there is not much time left in this legislative session, adding, "We are going to do everything we can over the next four months to change their minds and get this bill passed."