Barack Obama is Still Very Popular, But his Birthday Won't Become a Holiday in Illinois

Illinois lawmakers say no to Barack Obama holiday recognizing his birthday.
U.S. President Barack Obama arrives on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S. January 20, 2017. Win McNameeREUTERS

Although 44th U.S. President Barack Obama is still popular, he won't be celebrated with a holiday any time soon after a proposal that would have made his birthday a state holiday in Illinois failed to pass. The measure would have authorized schools and state facilities to close in honor of Obama's birthday, Aug. 4, each year.

Only 54 members of Illinois' House voted in favor of the measure, leaving the proposal six votes short of what's required to move over to the Illinois Senate, where Obama once served as Chicago's delegate.

Some Republicans said closing state buildings on Obama's birthday could have a negative economic effect, especially since the state's Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget office already spends about $3.2 million in personnel expenses on state holidays. Not to mention the $16 million in lost productivity Illinois suffers from holidays each year.

"The concept you are working on here, giving President Obama a day, I think is deserved. I think it's appropriate, but I have a couple of questions about how we are doing it," Rep. Steve Andersson, R-Geneva, said to the Chicago Tribune Tuesday.

Some opponents of the proposal also said establishing a holiday for Obama would only add to the "inconsistent way" presidents from The Prairie State are already celebrated. For instance, Illinois celebrates Abraham Lincoln's birthday with a state holiday, but Ronald Reagan, who was from Tampico, Illinois, does not have a holiday.

Rep. Sonya Harper, D-Chicago, who sponsored the proposal, isn't giving up just yet. After 12 House members didn't vote on the measure, Harper was able to make a parliamentary move allowing her to try to gather more support for a second vote.

"President Barack Obama, he did great work for the state of Illinois and our country, and I believe we need to do our part in preserving that history," Harper said to the Chicago Tribune, noting that it was also important to honor the U.S.' first African-American president.

When Obama left office in January, he had a 59 percent approval rating, according to a Gallup Poll. A separate ABC News/Washington Post poll found more than 60 percent of the country approved of the way Obama handled matters of the economy.

"Personally, to me, he helped me to get motivated, get up in my community and organize my community to be the change that we want to see, and we are seeing right now on the ground," Harper said.