A Woodrow Wilson presidential library?

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On 28 September 2006 the House of Representatives passed a bill"to authorize grants for contributions toward the establishment of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library" -- legislation (H.R. 4846) introduced by Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and co-sponsored by eleven of his colleagues.

The bill in essence authorizes a future Congressional appropriation that directs the Archivist of the United States to contribute funds toward the establishment of a private presidential museum-- the Wilson Presidential Library in Staunton, Virginia which is owned by the Wilson Library Foundation. Specifically, the legislation"requires non-federal matching funds of at least double that of the grant" and stipulates that no grant funds can be used for the maintenance or operation of the library. In other words, while federal funds would be contributed, the library would not be made a part of the NARA administered, presidential library system. The legislation creates a precedent for what some would perhaps like to see a new NARA administered program of pass-through grants for private presidential libraries and museums.

However, in the floor debate prior to enactment of the bill, Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL), a member of the Government Reform committee that considered the measure stated," I want to make it clear that we are not establishing a precedent here...the Federal government simply does not have the resources to support all private Presidential libraries." However, by enacting this legislation that is exactly what Congress is doing. Davis also expressed concern"that this grant would cut into the operating funds of the [National] Archives" a viewpoint shared by other members of the committee.

In part to address that latter concern, the bill as passed is slightly different from the version that was first introduced. The most significant difference is that the House-passed bill includes a provision that provides that the grant funds may be made"only from funds appropriated to the Archivist specifically for that purpose." In other words, the bill sanctions a future appropriation earmark: National Archives officials declined to comment on the proposed legislative initiative.

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration and possible action.

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