From left, Representative Danny Davis, D-Ill., Senator Ed Markey, D-Mass., Steve Williams, president of the National Foundation for the June Celebration, and Senator Tina Smith, D-Minn., Pose with the flag of the Eleven after their press conference at the Capitol on Wednesday, June 16, 2021.
Bill Clark | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
A law establishing a federal holiday on June 19, marking the end of slavery in the United States, was passed by the House on Wednesday, paving the way for President Joe Biden to sign it.
The law sailed through Congress, enactment of the Senate by unanimous consent less than a day earlier. The House passed the law by 415-14 votes, with only Republicans voting against.
“It’s not often when you can stand on the floor of the House and use the terminology‘ I feel full, ’” said Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas spokeswoman, who sponsored the House version of the law, after its adoption.
“Let’s come together,” Lee said. “We are here to serve, and there is much more to come, in changing lives, for justice, equality and freedom. That is what happened today.”
With a short law, Independence Day on June 19 will turn into the 12th legal state holiday.
The eleventh, which falls on June 19, marks the date when the last enslaved African Americans were given their freedom. On that day in 1865, Union soldiers led by General Gordon Granger arrived in the coastal town of Galveston, Texas to deliver General order no. 3, which officially ended slavery in the country.
The final act of liberation followed several months after the surrender of the Confederate Army ended the civil war and more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation of emancipation.
Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865, two months before his proclamation arrived in Texas.
Forty-eight states and Washington, DC, already recognized June as a holiday. But deputies on the floor of the House argued that it should have long ago become a national day of celebration.
Establishing a federal holiday on June 19 “is a crucial step in remembering our past and will undoubtedly help us build a better future,” said spokeswoman Carolyn Maloney, DN.Y., who presented the bill on the floor.
“I often equate June 19 with our country’s inability to communicate,” said majority whip James Clyburn, DS.C., a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. “The failure to communicate kept them in bondage for another two and a half years.”
It was expected that the laws would be easily passed in the House. Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., Who accompanied Maloney during a one-hour conversation before the vote, said he would support the bill, although he criticized Democrats for the hasty process.
Lawmakers did not have time to consider the effect of “approving the entire federal workforce another day off,” Comer said.
Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., Protested against the Democrats for circumventing the committee process and bringing the bill directly to the floor. Higgins, however, said he would vote for the law.
Some Republicans opposed naming the holiday as “Independence Day.” They noticed that June 19, among other names, is called the Day of Jubilee and the Day of Emancipation.
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., Argued that the chosen name would “create confusion” with Fourth of July, saying, “Why ask Americans to choose one of two Independence Days to celebrate?”
Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mt., Is the only member of Congress to issue a statement against the law before the vote.
“Let’s call the ace an ace. This is an attempt by the left to make a day out of the whole canvas to celebrate identity politics as part of its larger efforts to make critical race theory the ruling ideology of our country,” Rosendale said in a statement.
In a tweet, Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas responded, “Kooky.”
Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin last year blocked a similar bill from June last year to advance through his chamber on the grounds that it would cost too much.
But Johnson said Tuesday he would not fight this time.
“Last year, a bill was presented to celebrate June 19 by providing additional paid leave for 2 million federal employees at a cost of $ 600 million a year,” Johnson it is stated in the statement. “They tried to pass the law without a debate or an amendment process. Although I strongly support the celebration of emancipation, I objected to the cost and lack of debate.”
“While it still seems strange that it is now necessary to provide taxpayers with paid leave to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress for further debate on this issue. Therefore, I do not intend to object,” he said.
The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Edward Markey of D-Mass. The house boasted 166 sponsors in the bill.