- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Democrats and Republicans in the House, despite the divisive debates in the nation over race, came together on Wednesday to overwhelmingly approve the creation of a federal holiday to mark the end of slavery.

The passage of a bill making Juneteenth, or June 19, a federal holiday, on a 415-14 vote, came after the Senate unanimously approved the measure on Tuesday.

The bill will now go to President Biden. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas Democrat — who had propped up a black-and-white photograph behind her of a slave’s back scarred from whippings as she spoke in favor of the holiday — said Mr. Biden will sign the bill into law.

At least one of the 14 Republicans who voted “no” was opposed to the holiday’s name, Juneteenth National Independence Day. 

Rep. Thomas Maddie, Kentucky Republican, said the name would be confused with July 4th and add to racial division. “It will push Americans to pick one of those two days as their Independence Day based on their racial identity.”

Even some Republicans who voted “yes” had problems with the official name.

Louisiana Rep. Clay Higgins said the name “co-opts” the nation’s Independence Day on July 4. Texas Rep. Chip Roy said he wished the bill could have been heard in a committee, where he would have suggested the holiday be called Jubilee, Emancipation Day or Freedom Day. 

Other Republicans who voted for the holiday objected to bringing up the measure for a vote without holding committee hearings to examine questions like how much it will cost taxpayers.

“I know my friends across the aisle have never been concerned about the cost of a federal program,” said Rep. James Comer, Kentucky Republican, who supported the bill nevertheless. 

Still, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle saw hope, at least temporarily, in being able to come together to support the bill.

“I am grateful that our racial divisions have fallen out of the sky, and we are crushing it — for the day,” said Ms. Lee, who called it “miraculous.”

Rep. Randy Weber,  a Texas Republican who represents Galveston, the city where Juneteenth has its roots, said the recognition of the end of slavery was a step toward “fulfilling our founders’ promise that all men are created equal” and said declaring the day a national holiday is “long overdue.”

Mr. Weber was heartened by the bill’s passage. “The forces that try to divide our nation will not prevail,” he said.

• Kery Murakami can be reached at kmurakami@washingtontimes.com.

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