White House Watch

Biden Signs Bipartisan Bill Establishing Juneteenth As A Federal Holiday


President Joe Biden signed a bill establishing Juneteenth as the newest federal holiday Thursday, two days before its commemoration nationwide.

The bill, known as the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act,” passed the Senate via unanimous consent Tuesday and sailed through the House Wednesday, with just 14 Republicans voting against it out of the 431 seated members.

“Juneteenth has been known by many names: Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Liberation Day, Emancipation Day. And today: a national holiday,” Vice President Kamala Harris said during the signing ceremony.”

“Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments,” Biden said during the ceremony. “We come to terms with the mistakes we made. And remembering those moments, we begin to heal and grow stronger.”

Juneteenth, already celebrated in the majority of states on June 19, commemorates the official end of slavery in Confederate states on that day in 1865. Though former President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, hundreds of thousands of slaves did not learn of their freedom until after the end of the Civil War.

Slavery was formally eradicated with the ratification of the 13th Amendment in December of 1865.

The House and Senate bills were sponsored by Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ed Markey.

Even though the bill had the support of the overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans alike, some GOP lawmakers found reasons to oppose it.

“This is an effort by the Left to create 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,” said Montana Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale in a statement ahead of the House vote.

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, a co-sponsor of the Senate bill, described Rosendale’s opposition as “kooky” before the bill passed the House.

Biden signed the bill a day after returning from his first foreign trip.

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