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Republican senators propose replacement of Columbus day with Juneteenth

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Republican Senators, James Lankford of Oklahoma, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, have sponsored a proposal seeking to replace the federal observance of Columbus Day with Juneteenth.

The senators, who disclosed this on Wednesday July 1, 2020,  commended Juneteenth legislation. They stressed that the monetary implications of observing two holidays should be considered. 

According to the senators, the new proposal would keep the number of federal holidays the same by eliminating October's Columbus Day.

The proposal, which was supported by a group of lawmakers in both the House and Senate, was co-sponsored by members of the Congressional Black Caucus. 

"In response to a bipartisan effort to give federal workers another day of paid leave by designating Juneteenth a federal holiday, we have offered a counterproposal that does not put us further in debt," said Johnson.

"We support celebrating emancipation with a federal holiday, but believe we should eliminate a current holiday in exchange," he added. 

Democratic lawmakers have long called for the recognition of Juneteenth as a federal holiday. 

The day commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and told slaves of their emancipation.

Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia mark June 19 as a state holiday or observance. Communities across the country celebrate it with food and festivities.

Columbus Day — a holiday ditched by several states and dozens of municipalities in favor of Indigenous Peoples' Day — was chosen by the pair to eliminate "as a holiday that is lightly celebrated, and least disruptive to Americans' schedules," Johnson said.

The observance of Columbus Day and the approbation of Christopher Columbus have come under fire as racial reckoning occurs across the country following the death of George Floyd.

Columbus has long been a contentious figure in history for his treatment of the Indigenous communities he encountered and for his role in violent colonization at their expense. 

In recent years, many cities and states — such as Minnesota, Alaska, Vermont and Oregon — have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day, in recognition of the pain and terror caused by Columbus and other European explorers.

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