At Rules Committee Hearing, Klobuchar and witness Eva Longoria push to pass legislation establishing a Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum and a National Museum of the American Latino

WASHINGTON - At a Rules Committee Hearing on the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum Act, and the National Museum of the American Latino Act, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the lead Democrat on the Rules Committee, pushed for the advancement of the two pieces of legislation before the end of the year. The two pieces of bi-partisan legislation are critical to expanding our understanding of the remarkable contributions that women and Latino Americans have made throughout the history of our country, and would more fully live up to the Smithsonian’s goal to increase and spread knowledge.    

“When families come to Washington and they visit the Smithsonian museums they think that they’re seeing the complete representation of the history of our nation. Unfortunately, that is not always the case,” Klobuchar said. “Establishing a women’s history museum and a Latino American museum are opportunities for the Smithsonian Institution to be a leader in telling our nation’s history, and more fully live up to the Smithsonian’s goal to increase and spread knowledge.”

“As a woman, a Latina, and a proud, ninth-generation American, I come before you as a citizen who lives at the intersection of the opportunities that we’ve gathered to discuss: the establishment of the National Museum of the American Latino, and the National Women’s History Museum,” Longoria said. “I believe that creating these museums – both the National Women’s History Museum and the National Museum of the American Latino – would help address one of the greatest challenges of our time: the division of American society.  Because by offering each and every American the opportunity to fully understand and appreciate women’s and Latinos’ contributions, we can collectively work towards the highest ideal of our nation: e pluribus unum. Out of many, one.”

Both the National Museum of the American Latino Act, sponsored by Senators Cornyn (R-TX) and Menendez (D-NJ) and the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum Act, sponsored by Senators Collins (R-ME) and Feinstein (D-CA) have bipartisan support in the Senate, and the House has already passed both pieces of legislation (introduced by Rep. Serrano (D-NY) and Rep. Maloney (D-NY) respectively) with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Watch video of Klobuchar remarks HERE. Download Longoria remarks HERE

Full text of Senator Klobuchar’s remarks as delivered are below:

Thank you very much, Chairman Blunt. I am so glad that we are holding this important hearing today. We have much to do, including pandemic relief, but I was looking back as you were talking about during the Depression actually, if you go back to the thirties, one of Franklin Roosevelt’s main programs was a public works of art program -- WPA project -- and one of them is actually hanging in my office on loan from a Minnesota museum. So as you mentioned, these museums will take years to build, but I actually think now is a good time to actually get this started and to get this passed. 

I am particularly excited to hear from our colleagues Senator Collins and Senator Feinstein, who are here, as well as Senator Menendez and Senator Cornyn.  

I am pleased to be a cosponsor of both of these bills and I believe these new museums are critical to expanding our understanding of the remarkable contributions that women and Latino Americans have made throughout the history of our country. 

The Smithsonian Institution was founded on the noble principle that as a nation, we must strive to expand our knowledge and to spread that knowledge widely. Nearly 175 years later, the Smithsonian continues to fulfill its mission, having grown to become the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex. We should all be proud of it.

Every year, this year different with the pandemic, but every year tens of millions of people visit the museums, galleries, the National Zoo. 

The National Mall is lined with the iconic structures that comprise the “crown jewels” of the Smithsonian. When families come to Washington and they visit these museums they think that they’re seeing the complete representation, of course, of the history of our nation. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. 

The fact that our museums do not adequately portray the contributions of women and Latino Americans has been well documented. In 1999, President Clinton signed an Executive Order to establish a commission to better identify the accomplishments of women in our nation’s history and to consider whether we should establish a women’s museum.

In 1994 the Smithsonian issued a report regarding the lack of representation of Latino Americans or their contributions to our nation. Of course there’ve been recommendations for both of these museums by several commissions in the past.

Even though the need for these two new museums is clear, the path to getting it done is not always clear. We know that these projects can take a long time as the Chairman pointed out. And they will require a tremendous level of resources, and let’s get this, momentum. 

The success of the newest Smithsonian museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, certainly sets a high standard for any museum moving forward.  But, as Secretary Bunch discusses in his testimony, it didn’t just happen overnight. In fact, it took 13 years from the passage of Congressman Lewis’ bill until the museum opened in September of 2016. 

Under that timeline, even if the legislation we’re discussing today were signed into law tomorrow, the museums wouldn’t be open to the public until maybe 2034. That’s why I would make the case we should pass legislation as soon as possible so that the hard work to create these museums can truly begin. 

When I arrived in the Senate, there were only 16 women senators, led by our dean at the time, the great Senator Barbara Mikulski from Maryland, who during her time in the Senate was a key leader of legislation to establish a women’s history museum. 

And as we know, this year marks an important milestone in our democracy, the centennial of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote.

We now have 26 women senators, which is an all-time high. 

Women continue to break barriers. Earlier this month, our colleague Senator Kamala Harris became the first woman elected to be Vice President of the United States. I loved one of the graphics that has been sent around online after the election and it says “Ladies, make sure to wear shoes because there’s glass everywhere.” 

My witness today is a Latino woman who knows about breaking barriers. Eva Longoria is a trailblazer for Latinos in the film industry. She is known for her work both in front of and behind the camera and continues to lead the charge of diverse and female representation in the industry and beyond. 

In addition to speaking about the need for a women’s history museum, she can provide a powerful voice in support of an American Latino museum. American Latinos have been a vital part of our country since its founding and it is past time for their contributions and experiences to be honored with a museum on the National Mall. 

I think it is very significant that our colleagues are here today. That both these bills before us have passed the House. That both of these bills before us have strong leadership, bipartisan leadership, Democrats and Republicans coming together.

It is my hope that we can add both of these bills to our final executive business meeting for the 116th Congress, and work to get the bills passed this year.  Not yet next year, not the year after. As I point out, Roosevelt did this in the middle of the Depression, where he saw the future. Something that wouldn’t get done now, but something that would help us to plan ahead for a decade from now.

Think about the kids that are watching. Think about the kids that want to go to that museum and see that women are honored, that Latinos are honored. This is our moment, colleagues, to do something really great by the end of the year.

Thank you.