Congress passed a bill this week to commemorate the end of slavery and recognize June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day. The Senate passed S. 475 unanimously Tuesday and the House overwhelmingly voted in favor of the measure Wednesday, but 14 Republicans still voted against it. The bill was signed into law on Thursday by President Joe Biden, triggering a federal holiday for Friday, as Juneteenth falls this year on Saturday.
BuzzFeed News made calls to the offices of the 14 Republicans and visited each member’s office in DC, trying to open the doors.
The offices of Reps. Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs, Mo Brooks, Mike Rogers, Tom McClintock, Ralph Norman, Andrew Clyde, and Ronny Jackson had all closed for the day — even though they voted against making Juneteenth a holiday.
But for the last minute declaration of a national holiday those offices would have been filled with bustling interns and congressional staff. Instead the marbled halls of the Capitol were mostly empty. Transom windows showed no signs of office activity and “CLEANING NOT REQUIRED” door tags lined the corridor.
Reps. Thomas Massie, Matt Rosendale, Scott DesJarlais, Doug LaMalfa, Chip Roy, and Tom Tiffany all had at least one person in their DC offices when BuzzFeed News visited.
“Most of us had already planned our week…since it wasn’t a day off and…we had things that needed to be completed,” the spokesperson for Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana told BuzzFeed News in an email. “We had normal operations today.”
The only objection to making Juneteenth a federal holiday had come from Republicans, some of whom claimed they objected because they found the official name of the holiday — Juneteenth National Independence Day — divisive.
“I could not vote for this bill, however, because the holiday should not be called ‘Juneteenth National Independence Day’ but rather, ‘Juneteenth National Emancipation [or Freedom or otherwise] Day,’ Rep. Chip Roy of Texas said in a statement. “This name needlessly divides our nation on a matter that should instead bring us together by creating a separate Independence Day based on the color of one’s skin.
Biggs also objected to the official name as well but said he “supports the celebration of Juneteenth” in a Twitter post just before going to the floor and voting “no.”