U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson on Tuesday ended his objection to making Juneteenth a federal paid holiday, a year after he put a stop to a bipartisan effort last summer to do so.
“While it still seems strange that having taxpayers provide federal employees paid time off is now required to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss the matter,” Johnson said regarding a proposal to make June 19, the day commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S., a federal holiday. “Therefore, I do not intend to object.”
Johnson lifting his objection paved the way for the U.S. Senate to pass the measure on Tuesday by unanimous consent after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, requested it, according to a spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, who also supports the measure.
The measure still needs to pass the House and be signed by President Joe Biden.
Last July, Johnson, R-Oshkosh, was the only Republican to object to a bipartisan proposal from U.S. Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Ed Markey, D-Mass., to pass by unanimous consent a measure making Juneteenth a federal paid holiday.
At the time, Johnson said that while he favored celebrating the end of slavery, he would not support adding another paid day off for federal workers, and wanted more debate. Specifically, Johnson had said discussions at the time about the measure left out the fact that it would give federal workers a paid day off “that the rest of Americans have to pay for.”
His statement indicated there isn’t interest from lawmakers to offset the cost of the potential new holiday.
Amid the negotiations last year, Johnson and U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., had planned to introduce a measure to reduce paid leave time for federal employees in order to offset the costs of the proposed additional holiday. He had also floated swapping Columbus Day for Juneteenth as a paid holiday.
According to Johnson, making Juneteenth a federal paid holiday for 2 million or so federal employees would cost around $600 million per year. Johnson said he “strongly” supports celebrating Emancipation.
“Resolutions recognizing the significance of, and celebrating, Juneteenth have unanimously passed with my support in Congress every year I’ve been a U.S. Senator,” Johnson said.
Baldwin said she has co-sponsored the legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday.