Conservative Groups Urge Republicans to Oppose Women’s Museum, Republicans Don’t Listen

The bill passed with overwhelming GOP support, sending a clear message to outside conservatives.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) speaks to reporters after a news conference May 16, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
Add to Briefcase
Sarah Mimms
May 7, 2014, 1:50 p.m.

Con­ser­vat­ive out­side groups on Wed­nes­day urged House Re­pub­lic­ans to vote against le­gis­la­tion provid­ing a path for­ward for the Na­tion­al Wo­men’s His­tory Mu­seum, warn­ing that the mu­seum would “rep­res­ent the fem­in­ist ideo­logy” and would “glor­i­fy abor­tion.”

Con­ser­vat­ive groups Her­it­age Ac­tion, Susan B. An­thony List, Con­cerned Wo­men for Amer­ica, the Eagle For­um, and the Fam­ily Re­search Coun­cil all op­posed the wo­men’s-mu­seum le­gis­la­tion and pushed mem­bers to vote against it Wed­nes­day. Her­it­age Ac­tion even aler­ted Re­pub­lic­ans that a “yea” vote would count against them in the group’s an­nu­al rank­ings of con­ser­vat­ive mem­bers.

“Un­less the di­versity of opin­ion among Amer­ic­an wo­men about our own his­tory is af­firm­at­ively ad­dressed and safe­guarded by Con­gress, we urge you to op­pose what will without doubt be­come a shrine to lib­er­al ideo­logy, abor­tion, and lib­er­al ad­voc­ates,” sev­er­al of the groups wrote in a joint let­ter to mem­bers. “Wo­men must not be used as an ex­cuse to pro­mote a sys­tem of be­liefs that ul­ti­mately ex­ploits and harms us. Not on our watch.”

But the bill passed any­way with a 383-33 vote, and a hand­ful of nays changed their votes to sup­port the meas­ure at the last minute. The party makeup among those vot­ing in fa­vor was split al­most equally, with 191 Re­pub­lic­ans and 192 Demo­crats sup­port­ing the meas­ure. All 33 mem­bers who voted against the bill were Re­pub­lic­ans.

The mes­sage from the Re­pub­lic­an ma­jor­ity to the out­side groups op­pos­ing the bill is clear: You’re not help­ing. As Demo­crats con­tin­ue to try to widen — or at least hold onto — the gender gap among voters this fall, Re­pub­lic­an op­pos­i­tion to a bi­par­tis­an le­gis­la­tion for a mu­seum cel­eb­rat­ing the ac­com­plish­ments of wo­men (just a few days be­fore Moth­er’s Day, no less) might not go over well at the polls in Novem­ber.

Rep. Mar­sha Black­burn, R-Tenn., who co­sponsored the mu­seum le­gis­la­tion, gave an im­pas­sioned speech in sup­port of the bill to Re­pub­lic­an mem­bers in their weekly con­fer­ence meet­ing Wed­nes­day morn­ing, ac­cord­ing to sev­er­al sources in the room, after col­leagues in­clud­ing Rep. Michele Bach­mann, R-Minn., sug­ges­ted they would vote against it.

Black­burn later re­leased a state­ment to the press say­ing that the mu­seum bill, which merely au­thor­izes a study to find a loc­a­tion for the mu­seum and es­tab­lish its mis­sion among oth­er things, would not cost any tax­pay­er money. She also poin­ted out that Bach­mann had ac­tu­ally once praised the work of the fledgling mu­seum’s staff. 

“Some crit­ics of this le­gis­la­tion have, in­cor­rectly, said that the bill would cre­ate a mu­seum that would por­tray wo­men as mono­lith­ic in their views on abor­tion as well as oth­er is­sues of con­cern to wo­men,” Black­burn said.

That seemed to con­vince many Re­pub­lic­ans in the con­fer­ence, who lined up to back the bill Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said that Black­burn’s in­volve­ment alone was enough to con­vince him that the mu­seum wouldn’t con­flict with con­ser­vat­ive pri­or­it­ies.

“It’s not as if Mar­sha Black­burn’s a dan­ger­ous lib­er­al,” he said, chuck­ling. “So I don’t think she’d be as­so­ci­ated with something that she didn’t think was go­ing to be pro­fes­sion­ally done and something that she thought would ul­ti­mately be­come some sort of bur­den to the tax­pay­er or some sort of polit­ic­al weapon. I think she’s try­ing to keep that from hap­pen­ing, quite frankly.”

Black­burn her­self is staunchly an­ti­abor­tion and even told Na­tion­al Journ­al earli­er this week that she doesn’t identi­fy as a fem­in­ist “at all.”

Eight­een of the 20 wo­men in the House Re­pub­lic­an con­fer­ence voted for the mu­seum bill, with Rep. Vicky Hartz­ler, R-Mo., join­ing Bach­mann in op­pos­i­tion.

Rep. Can­dice Miller, R-Mich., said op­pos­i­tion from out­side con­ser­vat­ive groups — and even some of her own col­leagues — con­cerned her. “Look, I’m a pretty con­ser­vat­ive per­son. I can’t even fol­low that train of thought,” she said. “It’s too con­vo­luted for me.”

What We're Following See More »
FCC Tightens Internet Privacy Standards
3 hours ago

Along party lines, the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to tighten privacy standards for Internet service providers. "The regulations will require providers to receive explicit customer consent before using an individual’s web browsing or app usage history for marketing purposes. The broadband industry fought to keep that obligation out of the rules."

Obama Commutes Another 98 Sentences
4 hours ago

President Obama commuted the sentences of another 98 drug offenders on Thursday. Most of the convicts were charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs or possession with intent to distribute. Many of the sentences were commuted to expire next year, but some will run longer. Others are required to enroll in residential drug treatment as a condition of their release.

DOJ Busts More Than 50 for Call Center Scam
4 hours ago

The Department of Justice announced today it's charged "61 individuals and entities for their alleged involvement in a transnational criminal organization that has victimized tens of thousands of persons in the United States through fraudulent schemes that have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. In connection with the scheme, 20 individuals were arrested today in the United States and 32 individuals and five call centers in India were charged for their alleged involvement. An additional U.S.-based defendant is currently in the custody of immigration authorities."

Johnson on Ballot Everywhere, Followed by Stein, McMullin
6 hours ago
Is McMullin Building the GOP in Exile?
8 hours ago

Evan McMullin, the independent conservative candidate who may win his home state of Utah, is quietly planning to turn his candidacy into a broader movement for principled conservatism. He tells BuzzFeed he's "skeptical" that the Republican party can reform itself "within a generation" and that the party's internal "disease" can't be cured via "the existing infrastructure.” The ex-CIA employee and Capitol Hill staffer says, “I have seen and worked with a lot of very courageous people in my time [but] I have seen a remarkable display of cowardice over the last couple of months in our leaders.” McMullin's team has assembled organizations in the 11 states where he's on the ballot, and adviser Rick Wilson says "there’s actually a very vibrant market for our message in the urban northeast and in parts of the south."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.