Matt Rosendale, Montana’s lone U.S. representative, has voted against a national holiday commemorating the end of slavery.
The first-term Republican lawmaker was one of 14 representatives to oppose making a federal holiday of Juneteenth, or June 19th, the day in 1865 when enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas were informed the Civil War had ended and they were free.
Rosendale suggested the Juneteenth vote was part of a years-long plot by Democrats to subvert the Fourth of July holiday.
“This legislation is the culmination of decades of efforts by the Left to prevent unashamed celebrations of our national story, heritage, and history,” Rosendale said on Twitter. “Their intent is to replace the Fourth of July with this new day, one that will inevitably focus on America's darkest moments. We're not perfect as a country, but we are a great nation, morally, economically, culturally, and in many other ways besides. I will never support efforts to pull down that legacy and replace it with self-hatred.”
Broad bipartisan support for the Juneteenth federal holiday in both the House and Senate proved the new holiday wasn’t a liberal plot. In the Senate where nationalizing the holiday passed unanimously, both Republican Sen. Steve Daines and Democratic Sen. Jon Tester voted for the bill a day earlier.
A full statement by Rosendale explaining his vote was retweeted by Republican Sen. John Cornyn, of Texas, who offered a one-word assessment of the Montana lawmaker: “Kooky.”
Cornyn had for several years led the Senate effort to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Houston Democrat, did the same in the House.
Other commenters took Rosendale’s statement as racist, in part because he used a variation of the expression to “call a spade a spade,” a centuries-old euphemism for speaking frankly that has more recently been construed as racist.
“Let’s call an ace an ace,” Rosendale’s statement read. “This is an effort by the left to create a day out of whole cloth to celebrate identity politics as part of its larger efforts to make Critical Race Theory the reigning ideology of our country. Since I believe in treating everyone equally, regardless of race, and that we should be focused on what unites us rather than our difference, I will vote no.”
It was a busy week for the lawmaker who in six months has carved out a niche as Montana’s clickbait congressman, the member of the delegation most likely to riff on whatever has far-right cable news buzzing.
Rosendale had earlier in the week made news by voting against awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to all police defending the Capitol on Jan. 6, the day of a violent attack by thousands of pro-Trump rioters. Similar to the Juneteenth vote, an overwhelming bipartisan vote approved the medals, while a small group of lawmakers, 21, voted no.
Wednesday, the congressman’s chief of staff was in the Washington Post for allegedly getting aggressive with police visiting Rosendale’s office the day after the medals vote.
D.C. policeman Michael Fanone told the Washington Post that Rosendale Chief of Staff James Braid “really got aggressive with Harry” Dunn, a Capitol Police officer, when Fanone and Dunn visited Rosendale’s office the day after the medals vote.
Fanone was beaten unconscious during the Jan. 6 riot and suffered a heart attack. He’s been quick to counter Republicans who suggest the Jan. 6 riot wasn’t really the melee Americans witnessed on live television. Dunn has also been outspoken against Republicans attempting to downplay a riot in which more than 140 cops were injured and two subsequently died, one from health problems, the other by suicide.
Fanone said he and Dunn were at Rosendale’s office to schedule a meeting when Braid responded by demanding their badge numbers.
Rosendale spokesman Harry Fones said in an email that Dunn, in uniform, was armed. It was the gun on Dunn’s hip that evoked the response from Braid, he said.
"Officer Fanone did stop by our office and meet with our chief but there was no altercation," said Fones on Thursday.
“Two men came into our office, unannounced, one dressed in plainclothes and one in uniform including a firearm,” Fones said. “Our chief politely asked if they were on duty and for their names as well as badge number, since we had individuals that had now entered our office, unannounced with a firearm and dressed as an officer. They stated they were not on duty, refused to give their badge number, and only Officer Fanone provided a name and email address. Our chief suggested that they would make time to meet with them soon. Our office intends to follow up on that promise if they reach out. Our chief provided them with business cards, shook hands, and they left.
“Asking a person to identify themselves, especially one with a firearm, isn’t an altercation. We ask anyone not on staff who enters our offices who they are, this is a standard safety protocol in every Hill office I’ve entered,” Fones said.
The medals vote, which took place June 15, was the second time the House had voted on the issue this spring. Lawmakers voted on the medals in March, at which point Rosendale voted to award the medals.
Fones said the difference between the March vote and the June vote was the inclusion of William Evans, a Capitol Police officer killed in April by Noah Green, who rammed the Capitol security barrier. Social media posts by Green before the attack referenced his Muslim faith, which wasn’t lost on Rosendale.
“If this was a standalone for officer Evans’ sacrifice, that would have been one thing, but this should have been done separately,” Fones said, citing Rosendale’s reasoning for voting against awarding the medals. “Why are they trying to tie this to Jan. 6 when he died in an attack by an Islamic extremist?”
There’s a current through Rosendale’s social media posts, his frequent appearances on Fox News, One America News Network and Newsmax, that's provoking for his political foes. He is, as they say “owning the libs,” focusing on issues that are more part of the far right conservative conversation than about Montana, always delivering his comments with a political punch in the snout.
“The public school system is indoctrinating our children to hate American and to disparage the nuclear family” Rosendale tweeted June 9. “We must retake control of our education system and teach the next generation the truths of what makes our nation the greatest on earth.” The tweet was posted the same afternoon that TC Energy announced it was abandoning the Keystone XL pipeline, which the representative picked up on the next day.
His target audience would be beyond his Montana constituency. “TUNE IN: I’m about to join @stinchfield1776 and @RepBrianBabin on @newsmax to discuss the recent events with the House GOP Conference. Tune in at 8pm ET.”
That’s 6 p.m. for the Montana crowd.
The representative has also been outspoken on the U.S. border with Mexico, which has landed him TV spots.
“If you actually look at his legislation, were still putting it out there. Still focused on Montana. He’s still focused on his stuff with his committees. His second bill was the Cottonwood bill, which directly impacts Montana,” Fones said. Cottonwood refers to a Ninth Circuit Court decision concerning endangered species, which led to a permitting delay for Montana timber projects. Rosendale in February introduced a bill to undo the court’s ruling on ESA. “I think it’s an unfair assumption. Just because it gets picked up nationally and it’s out there, doesn’t mean he’s not focused on Montana.”