Congress passes bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

Juneteenth
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The House passed legislation Wednesday that would establish June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a US federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, sending the bill to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

The bill passed the House 415-14 after the Senate unanimously passed the legislation Tuesday. The 14 Republicans to vote against the bill were Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin, Doug LaMalfa of California, Tom McClintock of California, Mike Rogers of Alabama, Matt Rosendale of Montana, Ronny Jackson of Texas, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, Andrew Clyde of Georgia, Chip Roy of Texas and Paul Gosar of Arizona.

The legislation was previously blocked by conservative Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin in 2020, but he dropped his objection this week despite his concerns, allowing the bill to advance out of the chamber.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced that the House would vote Wednesday in a tweet where he thanked the bill’s bipartisan sponsors, which included Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts.

“I look forward to bringing this bill to the Floor, and urge bipartisan support,” Hoyer wrote.

Jackson Lee told reporters ahead of the final passage, “what I see here today is racial divide crumbling, being crushed this day under a momentous vote that brings together people who understand the value of freedom.”

Ahead of the vote, Markey acknowledged that Biden is still overseas on his first international trip, but told reporters “we will be communicating with the White House” about getting this legislation signed as soon as possible.

The legislation has gained momentum after the Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd last year and the Democrats’ takeover of the White House and Congress.

On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger announced in Galveston, Texas, the end of slavery in accordance with President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.

In 1980, Juneteenth became a Texas state holiday. In the decades since, every state but South Dakota came to officially commemorate Juneteenth, but only a handful of states observe it as a paid holiday.