Senate Republicans are debating a bipartisan bill introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) which proposes making Juneteenth – the day that commemorates the end of slavery – a new federal holiday. While the bill has widespread support among Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate, some want to replace an already-existing holiday instead of adding another one to the official calendar.
Sen. Ron Johnson, concerned about the financial ramifications of signing another paid holiday into law, said that Republicans should consider removing Columbus Day and replacing it with Juneteenth.
“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,” Johnson clarified.
“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,” he expounded.
While Cornyn is eager to see Juneteenth added to the federal calendar, he was not excited about Johnson’s proposal to swap it with Columbus Day, which is widely celebrated by Italian-Americans in addition to the whole of the country.
“I think this dilutes the message we’re trying to send, which is one of being respectful and honoring and remembering our history,” Cornyn argued. “I think that’s problematic. We’re working through all those things right now we just don’t have an answer right this second.”
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), however, was more supportive of the Johnson amendment.
“Juneteenth is a day in our history that redefined the meaning of freedom and equality in America,” Lankford 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. We can reduce these impacts by replacing Columbus Day as a federal holiday with Juneteenth, America’s second independence day. I’m hopeful the Senate will support this amendment to celebrate this significant day in our nation’s history.”
Columbus Day, of course, has already been in the crosshairs of activists who are trying to repaint the explorer as a genocidal maniac who singlehandedly wiped out Native Americans. There has been a push over the last few years, taken up officially by select cities, to replace Columbus Day with “Indigenous People’s Day,” since we all know that the Indians who originally inhabited this continent never so much as raised a hand in violence throughout the many hundreds of years they occupied the land.
We’re not saying that the ending of slavery isn’t an event worth celebrating, but at the expense of the guy who made one of the most extraordinary, civilization-changing discoveries in global history? Erm, not so sure about that. Sorry.