Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 29, 2010

GOP SENATORS BLOCK NATIONAL WOMEN'S HISTORY MUSEUM, TOO.... When the Senate's two most right-wing members -- Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) -- block the legislative process because they hate the Democratic policy agenda, their motivations aren't especially mysterious. But their decision to block the National Women's History Museum is just dumb.

Gail Collins wrote about this the other day, noting that a simple bill clearing the way for the museum was already approved by the House, but like everything else, is tied up in the Senate. The proposal intends to sell an unused piece of federal land to a private group, which would use private funds to pay fair market value for the land and construction. If financing falls apart, the land property would simply revert back to federal ownership.

...Washington already has a postal museum, a textile museum, a spy museum and the Newseum. You may be wondering why there is any problem getting Congressional support for a women's history museum. Especially since the bill has already passed the House unanimously and come out of its Senate committee with unanimous approval. And since the bill, which is sponsored in the Senate by Susan Collins of Maine, has 23 co-sponsors from both parties. The Senate itself passed a different version of the plan unanimously a few years ago when the museum people were hoping to lease a government building rather than construct a new one.

The answer -- and, people, how many times have you heard this story? -- is that two senators, Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, have put holds on the bill.

So, what's the problem? For Coburn, the argument rests in part on the notion that there are other "similar" museums, and this one would likely "duplicate" the institution. As proof, the senator's office pointed to the Quilters Hall of Fame in Indiana. Think about that -- Tom Coburn thinks the National Women's History Museum in the nation's capital is unnecessary in part because of a museum for quilters several hundred miles away. (Dear Tom, women have contributed far more to American life than just quilts. Sincerely, Steve.)

As for DeMint, the religious right told him to intervene.

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."

Noting the far-right senators' consistent opposition to measures related to women and women's rights, Kate Conway concluded, "The question is not why Senators Coburn and DeMint are blocking this no-brainer of a bill, but rather why we would ever expect a person who has scorned issues like mammograms and recourse for rape victims -- issues so immediate and vital to the well-being of American women -- to think that an institution dedicated to those women would be worthwhile."

While this was supposed to be one of the non-controversial bills to be approved this year, there's now a fairly good chance Coburn and DeMint will kill the measure, and museum backers will have to try again next year.

Steve Benen 10:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (23)

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America must marginalize these petty GOPer enemies of the Republic by (1) denying them an electoral victory in November, and (2) having Mr. Biden stand in the Senate Chamber and call into question the validity of all previous Senatorial rules upon the next session of the chamber. As I see it, two good years of open-field running against a castrated Republican "regime of FOXian obstructionism" would put the Party of No into a nice, deep pit latrine.

Then we can just shovel the dirt back into the hole, and be done with them all.

Posted by: S. Waybright on September 29, 2010 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, women vote Democratic, and the pair of 'em are just pissed about that Suffrage thing, a hundred years ago. -just another Amendment that needs to be repealed. . .

Posted by: DAY on September 29, 2010 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, coburn is an ass. Why democrats wouldn't make him filibuster the bill and explain the whole quilting/women's history thing on the floor of the senate is beyond me.

(yes, I know Democrats would have to extend their time in D.C. A guess that is too much to ask.)

Posted by: square1 on September 29, 2010 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Wish I could respond but I have to get back to my quilting. Adios.

Posted by: whichwitch on September 29, 2010 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Honestly I don't see the need for these kinds of "I like puppies" bills. They're basically bullshit filler so the polis can go home and say "See? See all I've done for puppies!"

Building a national museum of women's history does nothing to actually, you know, *help* women, unlike any of a dozen issues they could instead be working on.

Posted by: Tlaloc on September 29, 2010 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

There has been an ongoing debate amongst civilized people over driving Tom Coburn into the sea.

The debate revolves around "which sea."

Posted by: have clue -- will travel on September 29, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Let them build their own damned anti-women museum if they want to celebrate women who think their gender should be second-class citizens.

It's too bad voters don't understand that a vote for a Republican is a vote for intrusive government.

Posted by: karen marie on September 29, 2010 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

If the deal is as described by Steve, there would be a net profit to the government from the land sale and it would make a piece of public land private and lower the deficit..I think those two are opposed because there might be a Nancy Pelosi wing.

Posted by: Mudge on September 29, 2010 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Good luck painting Tom Coburn as anti-woman, libbies. The man delivered babies for a living, Einsteins.

Posted by: Myke K on September 29, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Setting aside the debate over filibusters, but if the Democrats have the Senate next year, the rules allowing holds like these simply need to go. That's all there is to it. Allowing a single Senator a veto point is just nonsense.

Posted by: Gregory on September 29, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

and they both voted against the Frankin Amendment too. No surprise here...

Posted by: andyvillager on September 29, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Myke K needs to meet my dad's 300 lb, chain-smoking cardiologist.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on September 29, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

According to the underlying USA Today story, the government would be paid fair market value for the property, so there's no subsidy. The assertion that the museum would "focus" on abortion rights appears to be based on nothing more than the fact that many of those on the board have, in the past, supported abortion rights.

I'm guessing that what Coburn and DeMint are angling for here is a commitment that the museum won't advocate pro-choice positions.

The sheer number of personal holds by Senators in the last couple of years threatens to cause the Federal Government to become seiously disfunctional. I don't think that Republicans see this as a problem, but in the reality-based world it is.

Posted by: DRF on September 29, 2010 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Myke K needs to meet my dad's 300 lb, chain-smoking cardiologist.
Posted by: Davis X. Machina on September 29, 2010 at 11:31 AM

I believe that would be considered a smackdown of the highest order.

Posted by: citizen_pain on September 29, 2010 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

I'm guessing that what Coburn and DeMint are angling for here is a commitment that the museum won't advocate pro-choice positions.

Right. And you geniuses think that protecting women from the exploitation of abortion so they can fulfill their natural human purpose is anti-lady. There's no reasoning with such stupidity. You can lead a lib to facts but you can't make him think.

Posted by: Myke K on September 29, 2010 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

The question for me is why any women ever vote for these misogynistic creeps. Their hostility to successful women should make them unelectable.

Posted by: Shalimar on September 29, 2010 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

I just took some time out from my cross-stitch to say, whichwitch FTW!

Posted by: ajw93 on September 29, 2010 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Chris Dodd puts a hold on the FISA bill and Reid simply ignored the hold and held a vote on the bill. Two Republicans put a hold on a bill and Reid is suddenly 'powersless' to stop them.


I almost hope Angle wins simply so Reid go away.

Posted by: thorin-1 on September 29, 2010 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

The "exploitation of abortion"? Every once in a while a wingnut says something so wacky that I actually become curious to hear more about their crackpot theories.

Posted by: square1 on September 29, 2010 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Having just been to DC, there is also a memorial to women who served in Vietnam at the Vietnam War memorial, a plaque dedicated to women who supported the WWII effort in plane assembly lines, Red Cross, etc. in the WWII memorial*, and a gorgeous women's memorial in Arlington Cemetery. How terrible. /snark

*double whammy since this honors Obama's grandmother

What on earth is wrong with these guys???

Posted by: Hannah on September 29, 2010 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Thorin-1, go see a discussion of this issue in one of yesterday's threads. A hold is a threat to deny unanimous consent to proceed to a vote on a bill. If you ignore it, you need to invoke cloture, get 60 votes, wait 30 hours and then hold another vote.

Per other commenters above, this bill is not that important, it was a routine measure that was worth proceeding with primarily because it was considered uncontroversial and could be passed with a little staff time, a couple committee votes and a unanimous consent agreement. Continuing despite the hold would use up a lot of floor time that could be spent on more critical issues and given the disfunctional nature of the Senate these days, the mere fact that it was being brought up over DeMint's objections might have triggered unanimous Republican opposition and a failed cloture vote.

The FISA bill on the other hand, was a bill that had significant implications for how the government operates and given the support of the leadership from both parties, there was little question of it getting the 60 votes needed if Chris Dodd did try to force a cloture vote.

Posted by: tanstaafl on September 29, 2010 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

My opinion of Sen. Reid continues to improve.
Not only does he have to juggle the Democratic caucus, not exactly known for its ability to march in step, but he's also had to deal with these loons while trying to keep the governmental machinery moving! Pity the Republicans are so shameless, rules out blackmail as a viable option.
Had it been me, there would have been more than 33 Senate seats up for grabs this year...

And thank you tanstaafl, for your explanation about "holds".

Posted by: Doug on September 29, 2010 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans with their anti-women and anti-middle class and anti-working class attitudes DESERVE to be ALL shot execution style. And you Secret Service types, I said DESERVE to be shot, I didn't say I was going to shoot them, but you can't stop me from putting a hex on them. I can pour kerosene on their likenesses and burn it, and you can't stop me. We women are rightfully concerned that the Repugs will repeal the amendment that allows us women to even vote since most of us (those of us who have any common sense and consideration for the many Americans who are out of jobs because of Wall Street greed)are Democrats and Repuglicans hate us for it so many of them want to make it so we can't vote and can't divorce our husbands for abuse and cruelty. I can see those misogynic Repugs closing shelties for women who are trying to turn their lives around after spousal abuse. I am sure the Repugs would love to make it legal for husbands to beat the crap out of their wives if they "disobey." It is posters like Myke K who needs to have the crap beaten out of them for their anti-women attitudes. As for Repug attitude towards the working class: Any working class person voting Republican is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.

Posted by: Deborah Webb on September 30, 2010 at 7:56 AM | PERMALINK



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