MADISON, Wis. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson has withdrawn his proposal to eliminate the Columbus Day holdiay amid intense criticism from conservative commentators.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported that the Oshkosh Republican had proposed an amendment eliminating Columbus Day to a bipartisan bill designating June 19, or Juneteenth, the day slavery ended in the United States, as a federal holiday.
Johnson’s spokesman said then that Johnson wanted to eliminate Columbus Day so federal workers wouldn’t get a paid day off, saving the federal government millions of dollars and offsetting the cost of declaring Juneteenth a holiday. Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma joined Johnson in supporting the amendment.
Conservative commentators accused the senators of trying to erase history and appeasing rioters. Johnson and Lankford made the proposal in the midst of nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died while in Minneapolis police custody. Demonstrators have been pulling down statues of Columbus, who they see as the harbinger of genocide for native Americans and colonization.
Johnson said in a statement that he was only looking to save money. Columbus Day is lightly celebrated anyway so eliminating it wouldn’t disrupt most Americans’ schedules, he said.
“I was in no way deprecating Christopher Columbus’ achievements or expressing any value judgement regarding his place in history,” Johnson said.
Johnson and Lankford now plan to introduce a proposal to reduce paid leave time for federal workers to offset the costs of designating Juneteenth a holiday.
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