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These House Republicans opposed making Juneteenth a holiday two years ago

Republicans said the holiday was meant to stoke racial division

Eric Garcia
Tuesday 20 June 2023 03:26 BST
Portia: Juneteenth Celebration

The United States is celebrating Juneteenth as a national holiday for the second time on Monday.

The day commemorates 19 June 1865, when some 2,000 Union troops made their way to Galveston Bay, Texas, and announced the freedom of enslaved Black Americans under the Emancipation Proclamation that President Abraham Lincoln announced in 1863.

Texas has long celebrated the day. Former president Donald Trump had pledged to make the day a national holiday. In 2021, the resolution passed the Senate by unanimous consent before President Joe Biden signed it into law.

Nearly every House Republican voted to make Juneteenth a national Holiday in 2021, including now-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Reps Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). But 14 Republicans opposed making it a national holiday. Below is a list of the members.

-Rep Andy Biggs (R-AZ): The former head of the House Freedom Caucus said at the time that he blamed Democrats for officially titling the day the “Juneteenth National Independence Day”, rather than it being a “Juneteenth National Emancipation Day”. “Like with everything else, the Democrats weaponized this bill for their own agenda,” he said.

-Rep Mo Brooks (R-AL): At the time, Mr Brooks was running for the Republican nomination for Senate in Alabama and he no longer serves in the House of Representatives. Mr Brooks said at the time that he while supported a holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved people. But he said that the day was significant in Texas when a better day would be the day the Emancipation Proclamation was signed; when the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments of the Constitution passed; or the day the Civil War ended. “He would also prefer that another federal holiday be eliminated to offset the $1 billion price tag associated with giving federal workers the day off.”

-Rep Andrew Clyde (R-GA): Mr Clyde owns a gun shop in Athens. In 2021, he became infamous when he compared January 6 rioters to “tourists.” He also notably handed out pins of an AR-15 rifle to other members.

-Rep Scott DesJarlais (R-TN): Mr DesJarlais’s office said at the time that he believed it was “because he believes it is fiscally irresponsible to continue to create new paid holidays for federal workers while the majority of hard-working private-sector employees get left to pay the bill.”

-Rep Paul Gosar (R-AZ): Mr Gosar, who in 2022 appeared via video at a conference held by white nationalist Nick Fuentes, joined fellow Arizonan Mr Biggs. In a statement at the time, Mr Gosar said “Juneteenth is more debunked Critical Race Theory in action. I reject racism. I reject the racial division people are promoting. I voted no because this proposed holiday does not bring us together, it tears us apart,” he said, adding, “We have one Independence Day, and it applies equally to all people of all races.”

-Rep Ronny Jackson (R-TX): Dr Jackson, a former White House physician, said at the time he opposed the creation of the holiday on fiscal grounds, saying “Juneteenth is an important part of our history, especially in Texas. I support Texas’ Juneteenth holiday and I support all Americans who celebrate it,” but “I do not support more days off for federal employees. Many Americans feel like the federal government is not doing a good job for them as it is.”

-Rep Doug LaMalfa (R-CA): The California Republican opposed it both for the name and fiscal grounds, saying at the time that the titling of National Independence Day “could lead to further racial division as it now appears we have two different Independence Days, rather than celebrating a more appropriately named Emancipation Freedom Day” and said “This legislation to create another paid federal day off misses the mark, and costs American taxpayers an estimated $600 million.”

-Rep Thomas Massie (R-KY): The unorthodox libertarian Republican also objected to the name, tweeting, “The official name of the holiday is ‘Juneteenth National Independence Day.’ Bless your heart if you think that name wasn’t chosen to divide this country and diminish the Independence Day we celebrate on July 4.”

-Rep Tom McClintock (R-CA): The longtime California Republican said that he objected to the creation of the holiday because “Juneteenth aims to reach into the dead past, revive our most malevolent conflicts, and reintroduce them into our age to further racially divide our society” and that “This national holiday designation is acting not as a tool of solidarity, rather a tool for division.”

-Rep Ralph Norman (R-SC): The South Carolina Republican opposed the creation of the holiday both on fiscal and political grounds, saying “If you want to call Juneteenth, for example, Freedom Day or Emancipation Day then fine – that’s certainly worth considering. But calling it Independence Day is WHOLLY INAPPROPIATE.” He also said “So given inflation and the obnoxious growth of the federal government, this means a Juneteenth holiday should easily cost the federal government over a billion dollars Every. Single. Year. in federal payroll & holiday premiums with no offsets!”

-Rep Mike Rogers (R-AL): The Alabama Republican did not offer an explanation for his opposition to the creation of the holiday at the time.

-Rep Matt Rosendale (R-MT): The archconservative Montana Republican called Juneteenth “a day out of whole cloth to celebrate identity politics as part of its larger efforts to make Critical Race Theory the reigning ideology of our country.” He added that “The Left has made up what was primarily a Texas holiday, which they are now acting like they recently discovered, in order to continually make Americans feel bad and convince them that our country is evil.”

-Rep Chip Roy (R-TX): The hard-right former chief of staff to Sen Ted Cruz who also voted against an anti-lynching bill, said in the days following the vote that he “unfortunately could not support the bill establishing the federal holiday, due to my disagreement with its naming in its rushed passage.”

-Rep Tom Tiffany (R-WI): The Wisconsin Republican was the only member of the Wisconsin delegation to vote against the legislation and said at the time that it “fuel(ed) separatism by creating a race-based 'Independence Day.”

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