Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and James Lankford (R-OK) backed a proposal on Wednesday to replace Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has sponsored a bipartisan bill that would make Juneteenth, a day that celebrates the end of slavery, a federal holiday. Cornyn’s bill has engendered some backlash from Republicans worried about the cost of adding another federal paid holiday.
To offset the cost of adding Juneteenth as a federal holiday, Johnson proposed eliminating Columbus Day as a national holiday. He contended that few people celebrate Columbus Day, which marks Christopher Columbus’ landing in the Americas in 1492.
“I’m just saying let’s replace it with something,” Johnson said. “I chose Columbus Day just because it’s probably the most lightly celebrated and less disruptive to anybody’s schedule.”
Johnson added that he is “happy to celebrate the emancipation with a national holiday, but I just don’t think we should be, when we’re already blowing a hole in the budget right now, offering another paid day off for federal employees.”
The Hill reported that Lankford is a cosponsor of Johnson’s proposal to eliminate Columbus Day as a national holiday.
Cornyn pushed back on Lankford and Johnson’s proposal, saying it would be “problematic” to eliminate Columbus Day as a federal holiday.
The Texas senator, who is up for reelection this year, said scrapping Columbus Day “dilutes the message we’re trying to send, which is one of being respectful and honoring and remembering our history.”
Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Susan Collins (R-ME) have cosponsored Cornyn’s legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday without replacing Columbus Day.
Lankford said in a statement on Wednesday that while Americans should celebrate Juneteenth, Congress should consider the fiscal impact of adding another holiday.
“Throughout our history, we have strived to become a more perfect union, and Juneteenth was a huge step in attaining that goal,” Lankford said.
He added, “We should celebrate these strides on the federal level while remaining cognizant of the impact the existing ten federal holidays have on federal services and local businesses.”
Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.