The Eight Current Members of Congress Who Voted Against Martin Luther King Jr. Day

By
President Reagan reluctantly signs Martin Luther King Jr. Day into law. Corbis

Today, the nation celebrates not just the inauguration of President Obama's second term, but the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man who helped to make Obama's ascendancy to the presidency possible. King's birthday was enshrined as a national holiday in 1983, fifteen years after his untimely death. But Congress was hardly unanimous in its support for giving King such recognition. The House of Representatives approved of the holiday by a vote of 338 to 90, and the Senate by 78 to 22. Of those 112 dissenters, the vast majority have died or retired by now, but eight of them still remain in Congress today. Let's take a moment to embarrass them.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 23:  Arizona Senator John McCain watches a game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Chicago Cubs at Chase Field on June 23, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Photo: Norm Hall/2012 Getty Images

While running for president in 2000, McCain explained that he voted against the holiday in 1983 because he "thought that it was not necessary to have another federal holiday, that it cost too much money, that other presidents were not recognized." In a 2008 speech, McCain admitted, "I was wrong and eventually realized that, in time to give full support for a state holiday in Arizona. We can all be a little late sometimes in doing the right thing, and Dr. King understood this about his fellow Americans."

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL)

Mar. 15, 2011 - Washington, District of Columbia, U.S. - Senator RICHARD SHELBY (R-AL) listens to testimony during a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee hearing on ''The Administration's Report to Congress: Reforming America's Housing Finance Market. (Credit Image: ? Pete Marovich/ZUMAPRESS.com)

Though he voted against the holiday as a Democratic congressman (he would switch parties in 1994), Shelby won a senate seat in 1986 with 88 percent of the black vote, even though his opponent, Republican incumbent Jeremiah Denton, had voted in support of MLK Day.

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) (L) stands on the floor before the start of the abbreviated first day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 27, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. The RNC is scheduled to convene today, but will hold its first full session tomorrow after being delayed due to Tropical Storm Isaac.
Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Hatch called his vote "one of the worst decisions I have made as a senator" in a book by Charles Grodin called If I Only Knew Then ... Learning From Our Mistakes. "I convinced myself that there were valid reasons to vote against the holiday," Hatch writes. "While he was a great leader who deserved to be revered for generations, I could think of other great men in our nation's history who did not have commemorative holidays .... Why, I argued, should we ask taxpayers to pay $1 billion a year in lost productivity ... to elevate Dr. King above any of these historical figures?" Hatch admits that he had "failed to realize ... that this holiday was more than just celebrating the life of one man. Dr. King represented the courage, conviction, and dedication of millions throughout America."

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

1WASHINGTON, DC JUNE 28:   Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) at the senate confirmation hearing for the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court  in Washington, DC on June 28, 2010.   (Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Photo: The Washington Post/2010 The Washington Post

Though he voted against honoring King with a national holiday, the Iowa Republican did sign on as a co-sponsor to a 2004 bill that directed the president to honor King's contributions with a gold medal.

Congressman C.W. Bill Young (R-FL)

Congressman Hal Rogers (R-KY)

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., left, and Rep. Nita Lowey, R-NY, prepare to testify before the House Rules Committee at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. The House Rules Committee has been sifting through dozens of amendments on an aid package to assist victims of Superstorm Sandy that devastated parts of the Northeast coast in October and is expected to vote on the bill Tuesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Photo: J. Scott Applewhite

Congressman Tom Petri (R-WI)

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 09: Tom Petri speaks during the Wellness Week 2012 Pledge Kick-Off at the Canon House Office on February 9, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)
Photo: Kris Connor/2012 Kris Connor

Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI)

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 08:  Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming ranking member Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) attends a news conference on "energy, climate-gate and President Obama's trip to Copenhagen" with members of the House Republican American Energy Solutions Group at the U.S. Captiol December 8, 2009 in Washington, DC. What some climate change critics are calling "climate-gate," emails and other documents between scientists were hacked or stolen from a British climate-change research center.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jjames Sensenbrenner
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/2009 Getty Images