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'Hyphenated Identity Groups': Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee Blocks Legislation For Latino And Women History Smithsonians

WASHINGTON – Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, blocked two proposals on Thursday to create Smithsonian museums for Latino and women's history from unanimously passing the Senate, saying there's been too much "balkanization" in the country. 

Claiming "the last thing we need is to further divide an already divided nation," Lee blocked proposals to establish the National Museum of the American Latino and the American Women's History Museum. 

"Within the walls of a Smithsonian museum just like at the National Gallery of Art or the great memorials that dot this city, there is no us and them. There's only us. And so my objection to the creation of a new Smithsonian museum or series of museums based on group identity, what Theodore Roosevelt called hyphenated Americanism, is not a matter of budgetary or legislative technicalities. It is a matter of national unity and cultural inclusion," Lee said. 

Supporters of the bipartisan bills to add these museum to the existing Smithsonian Institution collection had hoped to get approval on a voice vote, but as allowed under Senate rules, Lee blocked the bills.

Lee argued that stories of Latinos and women should be told in the existing American History Museum, and if those histories are "being under appropriated" there, "that is a problem and that's a problem we should address here."

He stated the museums dedicated to the history of Native Americans and African Americans were separately built because those groups were "uniquely, deliberately, and systemically excluded" from history. 

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who has been advocating for the National Museum of the American Latino for years, argued: "We have been systematically excluded."

"Believe me, we have been," Menendez said passionately on the Senate floor. "And the only righteous way to end that exclusion is to pass this bill." 

Read entire article at USA Today