The Washington Times - March 9, 2011, 12:02PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders said Smithsonian Institution officials have promised to sell more made-in-America products in their gift shops.

After meeting with museum executives Tuesday in Mr. Sanders’ office on Capitol Hill, the Vermont independent called the commitment “a step in the right direction.”

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The lawmaker in January publicly criticized the Smithsonian for selling Chinese-produced bronze-colored busts of U.S. presidents — from George Washington to Barack Obama — at a gift shop at the National Museum of American History.

“Given the state of the American economy, I would urge the National Museum of American History to do its very best to find American companies to manufacture the products that it sells,” Mr. Sanders said in a letter to Brent D. Glass, the history museum director.

Mr. Sanders said museum executives have promised to sell only merchandise made in the United States at a gift shop called “The Price of Freedom.” The new policy will take effect within three months, they said, in time for the busy summer vacation tourist season.

Smithsonian officials also have pledged to sell more domestically made items at gift shops at its Air and Space Museum, Natural History Museum and the museums that house collections of art by American painters and artists from around the world, Mr. Sanders said.

If the Smithsonian does not follow through on its pledge, the senator said he is prepared to introduce legislation that would make the taxpayer-supported museums sell more merchandise made in America.