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14 House Republicans Voted Against Making Juneteenth A Federal Holiday

Texas Rep. Chip Roy, seen here at a press conference on May 20, was one of 14 House Republicans who voted against making June 19 a federal holiday.
Kevin Dietsch
Getty Images
Texas Rep. Chip Roy, seen here at a press conference on May 20, was one of 14 House Republicans who voted against making June 19 a federal holiday.

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation Wednesday to establish Juneteenth National Independence Day, a federal holiday to commemorate the end of chattel slavery in the United States.

The bill recognizes June 19, 1865, the day when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger led soldiers to Galveston, Texas, to deliver the message that the Union had won the war and the ending of slavery would be enforced.

While the Senate voted unanimously in favor of the holiday, 14 House members — all Republicans — voted against the bill, many citing concerns over the name of the holiday and whether it conflates with the July 4th holiday.

Those 14 House members are:

  • Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks
  • Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers
  • Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs
  • Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar
  • California Rep. Tom McClintock
  • California Rep Doug LaMalfa
  • Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde
  • Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie
  • Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale
  • South Carolina Rep. Ralph Norman
  • Tennessee Rep. Scott DesJarlais
  • Texas Rep. Ronny Jackson
  • Texas Rep. Chip Roy
  • Wisconsin Rep. Tom Tiffany
  • "I fully support creating a day to celebrate the abolition of slavery, a dark portion of our nation's history," Massie said on the House floor Wednesday. "However, naming this day 'National Independence Day' will create confusion and push Americans to pick one of those two days as their independence day based on their racial identity."

    He added: "Why can't we name this Emancipation Day, and come together as Americans, and celebrate that day together as Americans: Black and white, all colors, all races, all ethnicities, and then come together on Independence Day, which celebrates the creation of our country throwing off an oppressive government."

    Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., reacted to that argument on the floor, saying, "I want to say to my white colleagues on the other side: Getting your independence from being enslaved in a country is different from a country getting independence to rule themselves."

    Roy argued the legislation should have gone through a House committee and that there should have been a larger debate over the naming of the holiday.

    "I believe it's been often referred to in our history as 'Jubilee Day,' as 'Emancipation Day,' as 'Freedom Day' — I would be amenable to any of those names," Roy said on the floor Wednesday. "I don't believe that the title 'National Independence Day' works, and I would prefer that we just have a debate on that."

    Norman posted a thread on Twitter also critiquing the naming of the holiday. He also wrote that he's concerned the federal holiday will "cost the federal government over a billion dollars."

    "Our Independence Day is July 4th. Period. Independence Day celebrates the anniversary of our declared independence from Great Britain, and it's been that way for 245 years," Norman wrote. "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."

    Other Republican congressmen claimed the holiday is divisive.

    "I voted no because this proposed holiday does not bring us together, it tears us apart," Arizona's Gosar said in a statement following the vote. "I cannot support efforts that furthers racial divisions in this country. We have one Independence Day, and it applies equally to all people of all races."

    He did not expand on how a federal holiday commemorating the ending of slavery promotes racial divisions.

    Montana's Rosendale echoed that sentiment, claiming the holiday 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."

    Republicans have been using the term "critical race theory" as a shorthand for any conversations on race, racism and anti-racism, which some political strategists say could be used torally the conservative base as a culture war issue ahead of next year's midterm elections.

    President Biden plans to sign the bill into law Thursday afternoon.

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.