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A three-day holiday doomed? Honor Washington on birthday, bill says

February 23, 2012|By Richard Simon
  • George Washington's birthday should be a time to honor the father of our country, not sales at the mall, some lawmakers contend. Here, the United States' first president is shown in a Gilbert Stuart portrait at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass.
George Washington's birthday should be a time to honor the father…

Reporting from Washington — George Washington's birthday has come and gone this year, but if some lawmakers have their way, it would be commemorated in future years on the actual day, not necessarily a Monday.

A congressional hearing is scheduled for next week on a bill by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) to reestablish Feb. 22 as the official federal holiday honoring  the father of our country.

Washington's birthday has become "simply a time for many to celebrate a three-day weekend," Wolf said. "We need to change the focus from celebrating sales at the mall to celebrating the significance of President Washington’s birth to the birth of our nation."  

Congress in 1968 passed legislation moving the observance to the third Monday in February, effective 1971. That day has become known as Presidents Day.

Supporters of changing the date said at the time that it would, among other things, "stimulate greater industrial and commercial production by reducing employee absenteeism and enabling workweeks to be free from interruptions in the form of midweek holiday," according to a Congressional Research Service report.

Wednesday’s hearing, titled "Honoring George Washington's Legacy: Does America Need a Reminder?" will be held before a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee.

Wolf said there is precedent for changing the date. In 1975, President Ford signed legislation returning the Veterans Day observance back to Nov. 11 after it had been changed to the fourth Monday of October.

A Senate version of the bill has been introduced by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.).

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