Congress nears final approval of plan to make Juneteenth a federal holiday

Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., speaks during a media availability to discuss the state of women in our nation, on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 in Washington.
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Congress is on track to send legislation to President Joe Biden’s desk recognizing Juneteenth as a legal public holiday in time for Saturday’s celebration.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced Wednesday morning that the chamber would bring the measure to the floor for a vote, where it’s expected to pass with bipartisan support later in the day after clearing the Senate on Tuesday.

“Today, the House will take up legislation to make #Juneteenth a federal holiday,” Hoyer tweeted, thanking Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) “for their leadership in advancing this important measure.”

“I look forward to bringing this bill to the floor, and urge bipartisan support,” he added.

Sponsored by Markey and cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 60 senators, the legislation passed the Senate on Tuesday by unanimous consent, meaning no lawmaker objected to its approval.

“Making Juneteenth a federal holiday is a major step forward to recognize the wrongs of the past — but we must continue to work to ensure equal justice and fulfill the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation and our Constitution,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement Tuesday after its passage.

Juneteenth, celebrated annually on June 19 and already recognized as a holiday in 45 states, commemorates the end of slavery in Confederate states. While President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation to free slaves on Jan. 1, 1863, it took another two and a half years before some 250,000 slaves in Texas learned of their freedom on June 19, 1865.

Slavery in the U.S. was formally outlawed when the 13th Amendment was ratified in December 1865.

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