The United States Senate on June 15 unanimously voted to make June 19, or “Juneteeth,” a federal holiday.
Democrats and Republicans in the Senate approved the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act” (S. 4019), establishing June 19, the day that marks the end of the slavery of Black people, as an official holiday.
“Today’s Senate passage of our legislation to commemorate Juneteenth as a federal holiday will address this long-ignored gap in our history, recognize the wrong that was done, acknowledge the pain and suffering of generations of slaves and their descendants, and finally celebrate their freedom,” Senator Ed Markey said.
The measure now heads to the House of Representatives, then to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.
Once passed into law, every federal employee will be granted a paid day off from work.
Markey first introduced the legislation in June 2020 in the wake of the high-profile killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor in the hands of white police or armed civilians, sparking massive Black Lives Matter protests across the country and in other parts of the world.
Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson on June 15 did not raise the objection he used last year to block the bill. He had said that the day off for federal employees would cost the government hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Still, he said that he remains concerned about the cost.
“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,” Johnson said in a statement.
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