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Republican Senators Debate Replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a Federal Holiday

Republican Senators Debate Replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a Federal Holiday

On June 19, a bipartisan coalition of 40 senators led by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced a bill to make Juneteenth, a day that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, a federal holiday. That effort is now being held up by a Senate budget squabble.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) doesn’t want to add another paid holiday to the calendar. He says if Juneteenth is made a federal holiday, another paid federal holiday should come off the schedule. He’s proposing scrapping Columbus Day.

“I’m happy to celebrate the emancipation with a national holiday but I just don’t think we should be, when we’re already blowing a hole in the budget right now, offering another paid day off for federal employees,” Johnson said. “I’m just saying let’s replace it with something. I chose Columbus Day just because it’s probably the most lightly celebrated and less disruptive to anybody’s schedule” to cut from the calendar of federal holidays, he said.

Johnson estimates a single federal holiday costs the government about $600 million in paid time off for federal employees. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) is co-sponsoring an alternate bill with Johnson that would add Juneteenth, but not increase the total number of federal holidays. He said that while Juneteenth deserves to be remembered, Congress needs to weigh the economic impact of adding to the total of federal holidays.

“Throughout our history, we have strived to become a more perfect union and Juneteenth was a huge step in attaining that goal,” he said. “We should celebrate these strides on the federal level while remaining cognizant of the impact the existing 10 federal holidays have on federal services and local businesses.”

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