House

14 Republicans vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday

More than a dozen House Republicans voted against legislation on Wednesday to make Juneteenth, which marks the end of slavery in America, a federal holiday.

The House still passed the bill overwhelmingly by a vote of 415-14, a day after the Senate approved it by unanimous consent.

The bill now heads to President Biden for his signature ahead of June 19, the day in 1865 when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army informed the remaining enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, that they were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation issued more than two years earlier. 

The 14 Republicans who voted against the bill were Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Mo Brooks (Ala.), Andrew Clyde (Ga.), Scott DesJarlais (Tenn.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Ronny Jackson (Texas), Doug LaMalfa (Calif.), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Tom McClintock (Calif.), Ralph Norman (S.C.), Mike Rogers (Ala.), Matt Rosendale (Mont.), Chip Roy (Texas) and Tom Tiffany (Wis.).

Multiple House Republicans objected to officially calling the holiday "Juneteenth National Independence Day" out of concerns it could be confused with Independence Day on July 4.

"I fully support creating a day to celebrate the abolition of slavery," Massie said during House floor debate. "However, naming this day National Independence Day will create confusion and push Americans to pick one of those two days as their Independence Day based on their racial identity."

Massie suggested that the Juneteenth holiday could be named "Emancipation Day" instead.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, responded moments later that Massie's argument was "inappropriate."

"I want my colleague on the other side - and I want to say, my white colleague on the other side - getting your independence from being enslaved in a country is different from a country getting independence to rule themselves. It is not a day that you can loop together. That is inappropriate," Lawrence said.

Another Republican invoked the culture wars over teaching American children in schools about the nation's history of systemic racism for opposing the establishment of Juneteenth as a federal holiday.

"Let's call an ace an ace. This is an effort by the left to create a day out of whole cloth to celebrate identity politics as part of its larger efforts to make 'critical race theory' the reigning ideology of our country. Since I believe in treating everyone equally, regardless of race, and that we should be focused on what unites us rather than our differences, I will vote 'no,' " Rosendale said ahead of the vote. 

The Senate passed the bill on Tuesday under a unanimous consent agreement hours after Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) announced that he would not object to its passage.

"Although I strongly support celebrating Emancipation, I objected to the cost and lack of debate. 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. Therefore, I do not intend to object," Johnson said in a statement.

Wednesday's vote to make Juneteenth a federal holiday came a day after the House passed a bipartisan bill to award Congressional Gold Medals to police officers who helped defend the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

A total of 21 Republicans voted against that bill, citing objections to its description of calling the mob of former President Trump's supporters that stormed the Capitol "insurrectionists" and calling it "an attempt to rewrite history and further a Democrat narrative."

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