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Commission to Study the Potential Creation of A National Women's History Museum Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Break in Transcript

Madam Speaker, I thank the gentlelady from Wyoming for her superb work on this issue and for her guidance as this bill moved through the Natural Resources Committee. It is amazing. We had two committees of jurisdiction that oversaw this legislation, House Admin, chaired by Congresswoman Candice Miller, and Natural Resources, with Congressman Doc Hastings.

This legislation came through each of these committees on a unanimous vote--a unanimous vote, something deemed impossible in Washington--but everybody agrees that it is time that we come together and that we have an appropriate, bipartisan approach to addressing the collecting and the enshrining of what women have done in the fight and the cause of freedom.

Now, Madam Speaker, I do want to highlight just a couple of things. There has been so much misinformation distributed about the bill. This is a 10-page bill--I should say nine pages and about three lines. I think that Congresswoman Maloney, who has worked so diligently on this effort, will say, and as she and I discussed this morning, we basically have come forward and agreed on a new approach for all
museums that could possibly want to be considered. That approach is Congress, not a Presidential commission, but Congress having the ability to determine, in a bipartisan way, who serves on the commissions to review these museums and do a feasibility study, which is something those of us in business always do before we embark on any project. It is appropriate that the Federal Government do that, also. This is a fiscally conservative approach to addressing the cost of a museum.

Now, the duties of the commission my colleagues are going to find on page 4, and you will see there are several things that will be covered in this feasibility study: the availability and cost of collections, the impact of the museum on women's regional, history-related museums, potential locations in D.C., whether or not the museum should ever be part of the Smithsonian, the governance and organizational structure, best practices for engaging women in the development and design of the museum, and the cost and construction of operating and maintaining. In other words, they have got to have an endowment. They have to be able to pay their operational costs and their upfront costs--all of it--with private funds--never, ever with one penny of taxpayer money into this project.

Now, after 18 months of work, the commission will report back to Congress, an independent review will be done of their work, and then there will be a determination by Congress on whether or not to proceed with this project. That is the point at which there will be a vote on whether or not to carry forth with a museum.

But I would highlight with my friends this is about chronicling the history that women have participated in, the freedom and opportunity of this country and the fullness of opportunity in this country. We talk so much about how we work with other nations and especially some of these nations that have struggled in Eastern Europe and in the Middle East, and we show what freedom can do for hope and opportunity for women and children.

Wouldn't it be great if we had a museum that told that story? Like the story of the suffragists--Seneca Falls--that convention which--by the way it was Republican and conservative women and the Quakers who called together the Seneca Falls convention to start looking at the issue of suffrage. You probably are also interested to know Frederick Douglass was the one gentleman invited to speak at that convention on suffrage, then, of course, the suffragists who led the fight, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Anne Dallas Dudley--strong Republican women. It is time for that story to be told.

The ratification of the 19th Amendment with women receiving the right to vote took place in Nashville, Tennessee, my State, at our State capitol, where I have had the opportunity, and the Speaker has also had the opportunity, to serve.

We know that it is important to tell that story of what women have done in the cause of freedom. That is why we have come together to agree on the structure, to work to put a commission in place that will do the necessary due diligence, that will put the safeguards in place, and will guarantee that in perpetuity--forever--there will not be Federal taxpayer money that is spent on this.

Madam Speaker, working to highlight what women have accomplished is a worthy goal, and it is something that in a bipartisan manner we should be able to come together and to agree on. This is a goal, and Washington, D.C., is an appropriate place that we can recognize this history, we can chronicle this history, and for future generations, our children, our grandchildren, and for other nations as they come to see us, they can see how women find victory through freedom, opportunity, and the doors that open and what it allows them to experience in their lives.

I thank the chairman from Wyoming for yielding the time.

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