JUNETEENTH is that much closer to becoming a federal holiday after the Senate voted to establish the day off in a unanimous vote on Tuesday.
The bill would make Juneteenth the 12th federal holiday, and is likely to pass the House, which would then send it to President Joe Biden for his signature, which is likely as well.
June 19, 1865 marks the true end of slavery in the United States, when the last enslaved African Americans learned they were free.
Although Confederate soldiers surrendered in April of that year, word didn’t reach the last enslaved Black people until June 19, when Union soldiers marched to Galveston, Texas with the news.
Juneteenth commemorates that day.
“Making Juneteenth a federal holiday is a major step forward to recognize the wrongs of the past,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“But we must continue to work to ensure equal justice and fulfill the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation and our Constitution.”
The Senate passed the bill under a unanimous consent agreement, which allows for a quicker process to pass legislation but also means only one senator’s objection can block the agreement.
Republican Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson had previously objected to a similar bill making Juneteenth a holiday because of the cost and lack of debate.
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He said he had supported previous measures to recognize Juneteenth, but figured the new holiday would give federal employees another day off at a cost of about $600 million a year.
“While it still seems strange that having taxpayers provide federal employees paid time off is now required to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss the matter,” he said.
“Therefore, I do not intend to object,” he added before the vote on Tuesday.