Juneteenth Becomes Federal Holiday Thanks to Historic Republican-Backed Legislation

'This bill probably wouldn't have happened if it had not been for the persistent support of Texas Sen. John Cornyn'

Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R.) / Getty Images
June 18, 2021

Juneteenth Independence Day, commemorating the end of slavery in the United States and the triumph of Republican president Abraham Lincoln, is now a federal holiday thanks to GOP-backed legislation.

President Joe Biden signed the Republican-backed bill into law on Thursday, creating the first new federal holiday since 1983, when GOP president Ronald Reagan established Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

"It's finally time to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday," wrote Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas), who introduced the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act in the Senate, where it was unanimously approved, and worked with Democrats to secure its passage in the House.

Liberal commentator Juan Williams praised Cornyn for "leading the way." The Republican "is sensitive to the racial divide and often looks for healing," Williams wrote approvingly.

The editors of the Beaumont Enterprise went even further. "This bill probably wouldn't have happened if it had [not] been for the persistent support of Texas Sen. John Cornyn," they wrote. "He has been pushing it in Washington for more than a year, first proposing it in the national trauma after the police killing of George Floyd."

Cornyn wasn't the only Republican who made it happen. Nearly 20 GOP senators signed on as cosponsors, including Richard Burr (N.C.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Deb Fischer (Neb.), James Lankford (Okla.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Jim Risch (Idaho), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Todd Young (Ind.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (Miss.), Susan Collins (Maine), Rob Portman (Ohio), Tim Scott (S.C.), John Hoeven (N.D.), and Shelly Moore Capito (W. Va.).