The House of Representatives, on Wednesday, passed legislation enshrining June 19, known as Juneteenth, as a federal national holiday.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed the bill with unanimous support, and today, the bill passed in the House by a 415-14 vote. All votes in opposition came from House republicans.
The day celebrates the emancipation of people who were enslaved in the US – specifically the end of slavery in Texas. Roughly 3o months after the Emancipation Proclamation, which was delivered on September 22, 1862, on June 19, 1865, Major General Gordan Granger told slaves in Galveston, Texas, that they were free.
President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming days.
Many of the Republicans who opposed the bill worried the holiday would co-opt Independence Day, and until Wednesday, Sen. Ron Johnson said he opposed the bill because of the cost of giving federal employees another day off.
“This bill and this day are about freedom,” Texas Democrat Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who authored the bill, said on the floor today.
The 14 GOP members who voted against the bill’s passage were:
The Senate voted unanimously on Tuesday to pass legislation that would make June 19th, known as Juneteenth, a national holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the US.
The bipartisan bill, authored by Democratic Sen. Ed Markey and Republican Sen. John Cornyn, will need to be passed by the House and signed by President Joe Biden before it becomes law, but the Senate’s vote marks a significant step forward in the years-long legislative effort.
“Happy that my bill to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday just passed the Senate. It has been a state holiday in Texas for more than 40 years,” Cornyn tweeted on Tuesday. “Now more than ever, we need to learn from our history and continue to form a more perfect union.”
The bill was only able to pass after Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, ended his efforts to block it, conceding on Tuesday that few of his colleagues have an “appetite” to debate the issue. Johnson argued that it was too costly to give federal government employees an additional day off and has suggested the government remove a federal holiday in exchange for Juneteenth.
No senator objected to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s request for unanimous consent, despite several Republican senators’ previously stated opposition to the legislation.
The Juneteenth holiday celebrates June 19, 1865, when a union general informed African Americans in Galveston, Texas, that they had been emancipated from slavery, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. The day has been celebrated since the late 1800s. In 1980, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth a holiday, and now the vast majority of states recognize the day.
Federal lawmakers’ efforts to make Juneteenth a federal holiday gained significantly more momentum last year amid the nationwide protests following George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer.
There are a total of 10 existing federal holidays in the US, which amounts to far fewer annual paid days off than the US’s peer countries provide. It’s been almost 40 years since the federal government created the last national holiday: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
A federally recognized Juneteenth holiday would only technically apply to government employees, but private organizations often follow suit and give their workers the day off. A slew of private employers, including major corporations, made the day a paid holiday beginning last year.
As part of the settlement program, the player’s brain function scores were to be adjusted against an average score, or “norm” for similar demographic groups, a practice called “race-norming,” ABC news reported.
This norm assumed that the average Black player would start at lower levels of cognition than white players, meaning they would have to score lower on the test to prove that they had sustained brain damage to qualify for compensation, ABC News said.
The league has denied that the practice is discriminatory, saying that this was meant “to stop bias in testing, not perpetrate it,” AP News reported.
A “replacement norm,” will be developed by a panel of neuropsychologists, the NFL, and magistrate judge Christopher Seeger, the lead lawyer who represented the class of retired players, The New York Times reported. But the league did not say how long this would take.
The new norm will be used to reevaluate claims from Black retirees who would have otherwise qualified for the award if it wasn’t for the race adjustment, the NFL said.
The league said that practice was never mandatory, but left to the discretion of doctors taking part in the settlement program.
However, the NFL has appealed some claims filed by Black players not adjusted for race, according to AP News.
Two retired NFL players, Najeh Davenport and Kevin Henry, were denied awards that would have been granted if they had been white, according to a civil rights suit and a suit against the settlement raised in August last year, the AP reported.
Both Henry and Davenport’s cases were dismissed in March by Senior U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody, who is overseeing the settlement and ruled on the original court case. At the time of the dismissal, Brody called the case an “improper collateral attack” on the settlement, according to the Times. Brody’s ruling has been appealed.
After the dismissal, Brody ordered an investigation, led by Seeger, into concerns about the league’s use of separate scoring curves, the Times reported.
The news of the investigation led a dozen NFL retired player’s wives to send Brody a petition calling for an end to race norming, which got almost 50,000 signatures, the Times reported.
The involvement of Seeger in the court-ruled investigation on race-norming has been called out by Davenport and Henry’s lawyers, who expressed doubt that he would represent Black players fairly. Seeger and the NFL, they said, introduced race-norming into the settlement agreement, the Times reported.
Seeger had previously said that his firm had “investigated the issue” and “not seen any evidence of racial bias in the settlement program,” ABC News reported.
In an interview with ABC News’ Nightline released on Wednesday, Seeger walked back his statements, saying: “I was wrong. I didn’t have a full appreciation of the scope of the problem.”
Asian American lawmakers make up less than 1% of elected leaders in the US, despite the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders accounting for more than 6% of the nation’s population as of mid-2020.
The statistic was included in a report by the Reflective Democracy Campaign, which investigates diversity and demographic representation in elected leadership. The report was included in an article by Politico on Tuesday.
There are two US senators who are part of the AAPI community – Sens. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. At least 16 US representatives are AAPI individuals.
On a state level, there are more than 150 state legislators in 31 states across the US. One-third of whom are representing majority-white districts, but only 17% representing majority AAPI districts, according to the report.
“The exclusion of Asian Americans from political power mirrors the history of AAPI exclusion and erasure from American society,” Brenda Choresi Carter, the director of the Reflective Democracy Campaign, said in the report. “But AAPI communities are winning visibility and power, and AAPI leaders are winning elections and reshaping politics, from city halls to Congress and the Vice President’s office.”
Strides in AAPI representation in the political sphere were made when Vice President Kamala Harris made history as the nation’s first female vice president, as well as the first vice president who is Black and of Asian descent.
When taking all levels of government into account, the only state whose AAPI elected officials proportionately represent its AAPI population is Hawaii. Madalene Xuan-Trang Mielke said in the report that states with significant AAPI populations – save for Hawaii – AAPI people are underrepresented in elected office.
“As a result, governments are unable to adequately serve vulnerable AAPI communities with cultural competency and with language access,” Mielke continued.
When measuring state legislatures alone, AAPI elected officials begin to mirror that of their AAPI constituents, according to the report. The percentage of state legislators in Hawaii, California, Maryland, and Washington who are AAPI are “relatively close or equal” to their AAPI population, the report read.
However, New Jersey has the fourth largest AAPI population in the US but has two AAPI state legislators, and Nevada has the fifth largest AAPI population and has only one AAPI state lawmaker, according to the report.
“Voters, regardless of party identification, really want to see reflective leadership,” Carter told Politico. “Political power has been concentrated in the hands of white men in the United States since the very beginning. And I think we are seeing the limitations of that.”