The United States will soon have a new federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery.
On Wednesday, the U.S. House of representatives voted 415-14 to make Juneteenth, or June 19, the 12th federal holiday. The bill now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk where he is expected to sign it.
“Juneteenth is the living symbol of Lincoln’s promise that this nation, under God, ‘would have a new birth of freedom’,” said U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), the lead sponsor of the bill. “When the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act is signed into law by President Biden, the federal government will join 47 states in recognizing as a holiday Juneteenth.”
According to history.com, Juneteenth marks the end of African-American slavery in the United States after federal troops liberated the last remaining strongholds in Galveston, Texas in 1865. The troops’ arrival came over two years after then-President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Juneteenth is considered to be the longest-celebrated African-American holiday.
Of the 14 “no” votes, two came from Alabama Reps. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) and Mike Rogers (R-Saks).
Brooks told AL.com that the end of slavery “ought to celebrated as much as the Fourth of July,” but the bill “should have been celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation or the passage of the 13th, 14th, or 15th amendments or the end of the Civil war… rather than a date apportioned in one state.”
Brooks also stated the new holiday would cost the nation $1 billion in lost productivity due to federal workers being off an extra day every year.
“The cost should have been offset by eliminating one of the other holidays so that taxpayers don’t once again have to foot the bill for paying millions of people not to work,” he continued. According to AL.com, Brooks would not say which holiday should be replaced by Juneteenth.
If signed into law by President Biden, this would be the first federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983.