Protesters gather at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial to mark Juneteenth in Washington, DC on June 19, 2020.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images
The Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that would make June 10 or June 19 a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
The bill would mean that June 12th becomes the 12th federal holiday. It is expected to easily get past the House of Representatives that it would be sent to President Joe Biden for signature.
Juneteenth recalls when the last enslaved African Americans found out they were free. Confederate soldiers surrendered in April 1865, but news did not reach the last of the enslaved blacks until June 19, when Union soldiers brought news of freedom to Galveston, Texas. That was about two years after the proclamation of emancipation.
“Making Juniteenth a federal holiday is a huge step forward in recognizing the wrongs of the past,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “But we must continue to work to ensure equal justice and to fulfill the promises of the Emancipation Proclamation and our constitution.”
The Senate passed the bill by unanimous approval, which speeds up the process of reviewing laws. It only takes an objection from a senator to block such agreements.
Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Had objected to a bill in previous Congress because of the cost and lack of debate to celebrate June 10th as a federal holiday, he said. Johnson noted that he supported resolutions recognizing the importance of Juneteenth, but he was concerned that the new holiday would give federal employees another day off, which costs about $ 600 million a year.
“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. So I don’t intend to object, ”Johnson said in a statement prior to Tuesday’s vote.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., And has 60 co-sponsors. He tweeted Monday, “We have a long road to go towards racial justice in the United States and we cannot achieve it without recognizing our nation’s original sin of slavery.
The vast majority of states recognize Juniteenth as a public holiday or have an official celebration of the day, and most states hold celebrations.
Under the legislation, the federal holiday would be known as June National Independence Day.