House Interior FY 24 Funding Bill Prohibits Spending on American Latino Museum

The House Appropriations Committee today passed the Fiscal Year (FY 24) Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill by a party line vote. The bill has not been scheduled for floor action.

The bill cuts the budget for the National Endowment for the Humanities by 10 percent from $207 million in the current fiscal year to $186.3 million in FY 24. National Park Service history-related programs are generally flat-lined for FY 24.

The bill also includes a provision that prohibits any funds from being used for the design, construction, or planning for the National Museum of the American Latino.  It also prohibits funding for the operation of an existing exhibit, the Molina Family Latino Gallery at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. .

A Democratic amendment to strike the language was defeated 27-33. Republicans opposed the amendment stating they were merely using the threat of defunding the museum as leverage to convince senior leadership at the Smithsonian to address their concerns with how the existing exhibit depicted Latinos. During an extensive debate, there was consensus that members on both sides of the aisle support the continued design and construction of the museum. Assurances were given by senior Republican leadership on the Appropriations Committee that funding would be restored later in the FY 24 appropriations process if negotiations with the Smithsonian in reframing the exhibit were successful.

Congress authorized the building of the museum in 2020. Here is the committee report language:

SEC. 459. None of the funds made available by this Act shall be obligated for the planning, design, or construction of the National Museum of the American Latino or the operation of the Molina Family Latino Gallery.

“Museum of the American Latino. —The Committee is concerned by the overt bias, lack of diversity, and flippancy with which serious issues are addressed at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Latino. The Committee notes that Hispanic and Latino cultures have contributed immensely, and for successive generations, to American society through business, government, military, public service, music, culture, and the arts. However, the current exhibits at the museum reflect little of the wide-ranging accomplishments of the Latino community. Instead, the museum almost myopically portrays Latinos as an oppressed monolith united largely by their victimhood, neglecting the nuanced and varied experiences, including remarkable successes, of the American Latino, and despite the thousands of courageous Latino military heroes that served our country proudly and honorably, the creators of the exhibit chose to highlight a convicted deserter. The Committee is also concerned by the lightness with which serious topics are portrayed, such as scented exhibits meant to simulate raft rides of those risking their lives to flee tyranny, romanticization of socialism, and failure to adequately document or portray the reality of totalitarianism. The lack of seriousness on such a grave issue, particularly when millions of American Latinos fled the very socialism and communism neglected by the museum, is insulting.

For that reason, the bill includes a provision which would prohibit any funds from being used for the museum’s operation and for any future planning and design. The Committee will revisit the issue should comprehensive and earnest efforts be undertaken to accurately present the varied histories, contributions, and authentic experiences of the wide range of those who constitute the American Latino community in the United States.”

NCH will be contacting Senate appropriators to oppose inclusion of such language in their version of the Interior bill. We will also be monitoring the situation in the House to see if an agreement is reached with the Smithsonian’s leadership and to ensure the Republican leadership keeps their promise to restore the funding later in the appropriations process.