From left, Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Steve Williams, President of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, and Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., Pose with the Juneteenth flag after their press conference in the Capitol on Wednesday, June 16, 2021.
Bill Clark | CQ Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
A bill that would introduce a federal holiday on June 10th, marking the end of slavery in the United States, was passed in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, paving the way for President Joe Biden to sign the bill.
The bill went through Congress and passed the Senate unanimously less than a day earlier. The House of Representatives passed the bill 415-14, with only Republicans voting against.
“It’s not often that you stand on the floor of the House of Representatives and use the terminology, ‘I’m feeling fed up,'” said Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas MP, who sponsored the House version of the bill his adoption.
“Let’s get together,” said Lee. “We are here to serve, and more is to come, to change lives, for justice, equality and freedom. That happened today.”
The short bill makes National Independence Day in June the 12th public holiday.
Juniteenth, which falls on June 19, marks the date the last of the enslaved African Americans were granted their freedom. On that day in 1865, Union soldiers, led by General Gordon Granger, arrived in the coastal city of Galveston, Texas to deliver General Order No. 3 that officially ended slavery in the state.
The final act of liberation came months after the Confederate Army’s surrender ended the Civil War and more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865, two months before his proclamation reached Texas.
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Forty-eight states and Washington, DC already recognize June as a public holiday. But lawmakers argued in the House of Commons that it was long overdue to become a national holiday.
Making Juneteenth a holiday is “a critical step in remembering our past, and it will no doubt help us build a better future,” said Carolyn Maloney, Rep., Who put the bill on the Parquet presented.
“I often equate the Juneteenth with our country’s inability to communicate,” said James Clyburn, DS.C., MP for House Majority Whip, member of the Congressional Black Caucus. “Failure to communicate kept them in slavery for another two and a half years.”
The law was expected to be easily passed in the House of Representatives. Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., Who followed Maloney for an hour-long debate prior to the vote, said he would support the bill despite criticizing the Democrats for rushing the process.
Legislators didn’t have time to consider the implications of “giving the entire federal workforce one more day off,” Comer said.
Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., Railed against the Democrats for bypassing the committee process by bringing up the bill directly. Still, Higgins said he would vote for the law.
Some Republicans opposed naming the holiday “Independence Day”. They found that Juneteenth is also known as Jubilee Day and Emancipation Day, among other things.
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., Argued that the name chosen would “create confusion” with July 4th, saying, “Why ask Americans to choose one of the two Independence Days to celebrate?”
Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mt., Was the only member of Congress to issue an opposition to the law prior to the vote.
“Let’s call an ace an ace. This is an attempt by the left to create a day of whole material to celebrate identity politics as part of their larger effort to make Critical Racial Theory the dominant ideology of our country,” reads Rosendales Explanation.
In a tweet, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas replied, “Kooky.”
Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Last year prevented a similar June 10 bill from getting through his chamber on the grounds that it would cost too much.
But Johnson said Tuesday he wouldn’t fight this time.
“Last year a bill was introduced to celebrate June 10th by giving 2 million federal employees additional paid vacation at the cost of $ 600 million a year,” Johnson said in a statement. “They tried to get the bill passed without debate or amending process. While I strongly support celebrating emancipation, I opposed the cost and lack of debate.”
“While it still seems strange that taxpayers are now required to give federal employees paid time off to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that Congress has no appetite to discuss the matter further. ” he said.
The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Edward Markey, D-Mass. The House version of the bill boasted 166 co-sponsors.