Today, Congress passed a bill to make Juneteenth a Federal holiday. The Senate unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, CNN reports; soon after, the House Of Representatives passed the bill 415-14. The holiday commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. The bill now goes to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature. He is expected to sign the bill on Thursday, June 17.
According to Fox News, the 14 Representatives who voted against the measure include Reps. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz.; Mo Brooks, R-Ala.; Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.; Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.; Ronny Jackson, R-Texas; Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif.; Thomas Massie, R-Ky.; Tom McClintock, R-Calif.; Ralph Norman, R-S.C.; Mike Rogers, R-Ala.; Matt Rosendale, R-Mont.; Chip Roy, R-Texas, and Thomas Tiffany, R-Wis.
The push to make Juneteenth picked up a lot of momentum in the past year, since the Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd. Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson blocked the bill in 2020, saying that the day off for federal employees would cost US taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Johnson dropped his objection this week, paving the way for the bill’s passage in the Senate.
“I strongly support celebrating Emancipation, I objected to the cost and lack of debate,” Johnson said in a statement. “While it still seems strange that having taxpayers provide federal employees paid time off is now required to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss the matter.”
The bill’s sponsors come from both parties: Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts. Rep. Jackson Lee told reporters, “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,” according to CNN.