The Senate has unanimously passed a bill to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday, reports NBC News.
Juneteenth, which takes place annually on June 19, marks the true end of slavery in the United States. It commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Army General Gordon Granger proclaimed freedom from slavery in the state of Texas, nearly two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. The holiday has been celebrated in 47 states and the District of Columbia, but now, if passed through the House, will be recognized on a national level.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., made the motion to pass the legislation, and no other senator objected. Earlier on Tuesday, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. — who blocked the bill from passing last year — dropped his objection to the holiday.
“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 press release. “Therefore, I do not intend to object.”
The bill now goes to the House. If it passes, Juneteenth will become the 11th federal holiday. Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Sheila Jackson, both of Texas, first proposed the bill last summer amid national protests over the murder of George Floyd, but it did not garner enough support.
Cornyn tweeted his response to the passing of the bill, writing: “Happy that my bill to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday just passed in the Senate. It has been a state holiday in Texas for more than 40 years. Now more than ever, we need to learn from our history and continue to form a more perfect union.”