Jun 23, 2020 - Politics & Policy

13 GOP senators back bipartisan bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday

John Cornyn
John Cornyn. Photo: Carolyn Kaster-Pool/Getty Images)

A bipartisan Senate coalition of 27 Democrats, 13 Republicans and two independents are backing a bill to recognize Juneteenth, the June 19 commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States, as a federal holiday.

Why it matters: 47 states, plus D.C., recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday, but legislation to declare it a national holiday has repeatedly stalled in Congress, according to the Congressional Research Service.

  • The bill, introduced by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), was co-signed by 12 Senate Republicans.
  • They include Susan Collins (Maine), Josh Hawley (Mo.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), James Risch (Idaho) and Todd Young (Ind.)

What they're saying: “Juneteenth is time-honored tradition in Texas celebrating the news that all slaves were freed,” Cornyn said. “It’s an annual reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go to achieve the order of equality mentioned in General Granger’s General Order No. 3 in 1865."

  • "It’s past time we honor Juneteenth as a federal holiday so Americans across the nation can celebrate and recognize America’s long-fought path towards equality."

The big picture: A number of U.S. companies recognized Juneteenth this year as a paid holiday, including Nike, Vox Media, Spotify, Lyft, Twitter, Square and the NFL all announced they will be observing Juneteenth as a company holiday.

  • The bill comes after anti-racism protests erupted across the country after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
  • Senate Democrats, including Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Markey, Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.), introduced similar legislation last week.
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