U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany, a Republican who represents northern Wisconsin, was one of only 14 members of the House to vote against Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday.
On Wednesday, 415 members of Congress — all 220 Democrats and 195 Republicans — voted in favor of the measure. The 14 nay votes were all Republicans.
The measure passed the U.S. Senate unanimously on Tuesday after Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican who objected to the bill last year over the cost of a new federal holiday, dropped his opposition.
Juneteenth National Independence Day is celebrated on June 19 and commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.
Tiffany, a far-right, first-term Congressman who also voted to overturn presidential election results last year, released a statement accompanying his vote:
“Once again, House Democrats have used their majority to balkanize our country and fuel separatism by creating a race-based ‘Independence Day.’ There is only one Independence Day in America, just as there is only one National Anthem, one American flag and one America – under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. It is unfortunate that some have chosen to politicize the naming of this important historical event – one of many momentous milestones in America’s shared journey that began in 1776 to create a more perfect union – to turn Americans against one another and foment division based on skin color instead of uniting us.”
Alisa Von Hagel, an associate professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, called Tiffany’s statement “rather pejorative and dismissive.”
“I think it illustrates his lack of knowledge regarding its historical meaning, as well as its contemporary importance and relevance to so many Americans today,” Von Hagel said. “Whether this is purposeful or accidental – who knows. However, it shows a real failure to consider the reality of many Americans’ lives and experiences today, and investigate the value of this new holiday.”
U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, a Democrat from Milwaukee and the only member of Congress from Wisconsin who is Black, released this statement on the new holiday:
“I was thrilled to vote in support of making Juneteenth a federal holiday. This day is a critical part of our American history that needs to be recognized and acknowledged by all. While it is a day of joy and jubilation, it’s also a reminder that our work must continue to eliminate the barriers to opportunities, so that every person has a fair shot to succeed.”
Tiffany’s hard-line actions can be explained by the congressman’s belief that his political career is dependent upon the “Trump constituency” and that his district will be protected by Republicans, said Ed Miller, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
But Miller noted that Tiffany’s hold on the seat could be endangered if the upcoming redistricting process gives him a more competitive district.