The Non-Vindication of Ron Paul on MLK’s Birthday

This is a short follow-up to posts by Messrs. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Andrew Sullivan on Paul’s votes for a federal holiday.

Mr. Coates excellent detective work is here, MLK Day Fact Check, making clear that Paul’s votes for both the 1979 and 1983 bill were nays.

I think Mr. Coates work here is thorough and without need of addendum; there is only one loose thread left dangling which I wish to sew up.

From the linked post:

Paul’s supporters link to his Yea vote on this 1979 bill as evidence that he supported an MLK Holiday:


But this actually isn’t the bill for the holiday. The text doesn’t even claim that. More importantly, the date is wrong. This vote was taken on December 5, 1979. The vote for the King holiday was actually taken on November 13, 1979:

The bill was called up in the House on Tuesday, November 13, 1979…When the final vote was taken, 252 Members voted for the bill and 133 against–five votes short of the two-thirds needed for passage.

Andrew Sullivan follows up this post with Ron Paul, Chuck Todd, And Fact Checking, bringing up the HR 5461 amendment:

There’s this piece of evidence that seems to vindicate Paul. But it’s merely about when to recognize the holiday, not whether to, so far as I can tell.

I cannot emphasize this more strongly: Ron Paul’s vote does not indicate his support for the holiday, or ambivalence about the holiday but his passionate opposition to it.

The amendment was not simply to change the date of the holiday, but to make sure that the national holiday was always, NO MATTER WHAT THE DATE, held on Sunday. It’s this amendment that defeats the MLK birthday measure.

Here are two newspapers on the event at the time. From The Pitsburgh Post-Gazette December 6 1979:

House Rejects King Holiday
New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON – As Martin Luther King’s widow watched glumly from the galleries, the House of Representatives yesterday gutted a bill to make King’s birthday a national holiday.

The bill, which only two weeks ago had come close to receiving a two-thirds vote in the House, was then withdrawn from further consideration, at the behest of the congressional black caucus.

Republicans and Southerners joined forces to support a key amendment that provided that the slain civil rights leader’s birthday be celebrated on a Sunday.

The amendment was approved 207-191. With few exceptions, the 3-hour debate focused on the economics of creating an additional holiday.

The article at the Connecticut Morning Record and Journal, “Blacks Blame Carter For King Holiday Failure”, repeats the same news. An appropriate excerpt:

Instead of a national holiday honoring King, the House passed an amendment to make the holiday always fall on Sunday.

Sponsors considered that unacceptable and withdrew the bill.

I think this should end Paul’s supposed vindication over this.

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