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Sen. Mike Lee. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

GOP Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) on Thursday blocked legislation to establish a National Museum of the American Latino and American Women's History Museum as part of the Smithsonian Institution.

Why it matters: The Smithsonian Institution operates more than a dozen museums and galleries, but none are dedicated to the contributions and history of Latino Americans and women.

  • The legislation had bipartisan support, and Lee's objections were immediately criticized by senators on both sides of the aisle.

What he's saying: "I understand what my colleagues are trying to do and I respect what they're trying to do. ... But the last thing we need is to further divide an already divided nation with an array of segregated, separate-but-equal museums for hyphenated identity groups," Lee said from the Senate floor.

  • "At this moment in the history of our diverse nation, we need our federal government and the Smithsonian Institution itself to pull us closer together and not further apart."
  • "American history is an inclusive story that should unite us."
  • Of note: The Smithsonian Institution includes the National Museum of African American History and Culture the National Museum of the American Indian.

Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) immediately slammed Lee for his objection to the legislation.

  • "The House of Representatives passed this on voice. The Rules Committee passed it on voice in a bipartisan manner. And tonight, one colleague stands in the way," Menendez said, adding that Lee's move was "outrageous."
  • "One Republican colleague from Utah stands in the way of the hopes and dreams and aspirations of seeing Americans of Latino descent having their dreams fulfilled and being recognized," he added.
  • Collins said that "surely in a year where we're celebrating the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage, this is the time, this is the moment to finally pass the legislation unanimously recommended by an independent commission to establish an American Women's History museum in our nation's capital."
  • "I regret that that will not occur this evening, but we will not give up the fight," she added.

Worth noting: A task force issued a report in 1994 that said the Smithsonian Institution "almost entirely excludes and ignores Latinos in nearly every aspect of its operations," per the New York Times.

Go deeper

Updated Dec 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Congress passes massive coronavirus relief and government spending package

Photo: Erin Scott-Pool/Getty Images

The House and Senate passed a $900 billion coronavirus relief bill and a $1.4 trillion government funding measure Monday night after months of gridlock on Capitol Hill.

Why it matters: The bill’s passage comes before many of the existing coronavirus relief measures were set to expire on January 1. It also staves off a government shutdown.

45 mins ago - Health

Treasury begins dispersing $350 billion in COVID relief funding to states and localities

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Treasury on Monday began giving state and local governments access to $350 billion in emergency funding from the American Rescue Plan, the department announced Monday.

Why it matters: Though the money is aimed at helping state, local, territorial and tribal governments recover from the pandemic's economic fallout, the administration will generally give them wide latitude on how they can use the funds.

Game developers break silence around salaries

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Developers are sharing their salaries on Twitter under the hashtag #GameDevPaidMe to encourage pay transparency in their industry.

The big picture: The hashtag started circulating last year, but has returned periodically as developers fight for better working conditions. Salary sharing is a way to equalize the field. By removing the secrecy, as well as the stigma, around discussing pay, workers have more power to advocate for themselves when negotiating salaries and raises.