Senate passes bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — A new federal holiday is on the horizon as the Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed a bill to give that classification to Juneteenth.

Democrats and Republicans alike say it’s important to mark the date that the last enslaved people in Texas learned of their freedom on June 19, 1865, about two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

“Today, we join together to celebrate a momentous day in America history,” Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said.

“What I see here today is racial divide crumbling under a momentous vote,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, agreed. “Today, we have crushed a racial divide and we are, in fact, unified around freedom.”

Juneteenth has been a state holiday in Texas for 40 years. That state’s Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican, spearheaded the effort for federal recognition in the Senate. He said he hopes it will bring healing to a divided country.

“There’s nothing more powerful than idea whose time has come,” Cornyn said. This is the most propitious time for us to recognize our history and to learn from it.”

Currently, 47 states officially recognize Juneteenth. Last year, following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer, many companies started adopting it as a paid holiday.

“Juneteenth unquestionably deserves a place among our nation’s most celebrations, but it will be a day of remembrance,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., last year blocked the bill, arguing the occasion doesn’t justify the $600 million annual cost to taxpayers. But without a formal objection from him this time around, the bill moved to the House of Representatives.

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