GOP senator to introduce bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynFrustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal Chamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection Mini-exodus of Trump officials from Commerce to lobby on semiconductors MORE (R-Texas) said Thursday he will introduce legislation making Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating the emancipation of formerly enslaved African Americans, a federal holiday.

The June 19 holiday is “an opportunity to reflect on our history, the mistakes we have made, but yet how far we’ve come in the fight for equality, and a reminder of just how far we still have to go,” Cornyn, who is up for reelection in November, said on the Senate floor on Thursday.

Juneteenth has its roots in Cornyn’s home state, where in 1865, Gen. Gordon Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation to former slaves, the final state where it was read after first being issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Texas is one of 47 states, as well as the District of Columbia, that recognize the holiday. Both Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoGovernors' approval ratings drop as COVID-19 cases mount Should Biden win, why do some assume he'll only serve one term? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Brawls on Capitol Hill on Barr and COVID-19 MORE (D) called for their respective legislatures to make it a state holiday this week.

ADVERTISEMENT

Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) has introduced corresponding federal legislation in the House.

The holiday has been celebrated by many African Americans going back to 1866, but it has been in the headlines since the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd led to broader discussions about racism in American culture. Large corporations, including Target, Nike and Twitter, have made the date a companywide holiday in recent weeks.

“Over the last several weeks, Americans of all races and backgrounds, of all ages, have raised their voice in the fight against inequality and injustice that continues to exist in our society,” Cornyn said in a statement. “As the list of black men and women killed by police officers in custody grows, the calls for action are getting louder and louder, as they must, and as they should. There is a clear and urgent need for leaders at every level to come together, and to deliver the change that we need to deliver, in order to match up with our ideals.”