Freedom Caucus members vote no on COVID–19 American History Project Act despite its sponsor

AP Photo/Brett Duke

Republican freshman Rep. Julia Letlow introduced her first piece of legislation last night. It passed with a 376-47 vote. All 47 no votes came from Republicans. The COVID-19 American History Project Act is a personal victory for Letlow – her husband, Luke, died from complications caused by COVID-19 five days before he was due to take office in the House. Julia ran for his seat and won the special election to replace him. She is the only female member of the current Louisiana congressional delegation.


Louisiana Republican Rep.-elect Luke Letlow died of a heart attack after a procedure related to COVID-19. All of the pandemic’s deaths are tragic and this one was no exception. Letlow left behind his wife and their two very young children. According to the chancellor of the hospital he was admitted to, LSU Health Shreveport, Letlow experienced a heart attack following a procedure related to the virus.

The COVID-19 American History Project Act was introduced by Julia Letlow. It will have the Library of Congress collect personal stories, testimonials, photographs, and other records through its American Folklife Center to illustrate the personal stories of Americans throughout the pandemic.

Julia spoke movingly of the bill on the House floor earlier this week.

“For families like mine, that loss means an empty chair at the dinner table, a son who won’t be able to go fishing with his dad anymore, and a daughter who won’t be able to dance with her father on her wedding day. But this bill also values our people’s personal experiences during the pandemic, which will help inform the collective narrative,” Letlow said in a speech on the House floor.


About half of the no votes came from members of the House Freedom Caucus. Her fellow Republicans were not swayed to vote in favor of the project because some want China to be held responsible in the bill. The coronavirus pandemic has been highly politicized and this bill came in the crosshairs.

The GOP opposition underlined how politicized the pandemic has become. Of the 47 Republicans who opposed it, House Freedom Caucus members made up almost half. One Republican source said Letlow worked diligently to get her own colleagues on board. But some conservatives said they couldn’t support the bill because it didn’t blame the origins of the virus on China.

“It doesn’t have enough in there about Covid facts that I think matter..I just don’t think it merits support. I mean, like if we’re gonna have a full accounting on Covid, let’s have a full accounting,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who said he opposed the legislation. “Honestly, for me, there’s so many facts we need to know about Covid before we’re doing a history of it.”

The lack of support by some Republicans is unfortunate but in the end it didn’t matter. The bill easily passed and the process moves forward. Her bill was not intended to be a scientific paper on all the specifics of the coronavirus or the technicalities. It is to document the personal experiences of people, whether it is families who lost a loved one like hers did, or how people generally coped with life during a pandemic.


The legislation, H.R.4738, can be viewed here. The purpose of the bill is straightforward. There are references to Wuhan, China as the first place the virus was detected, causing a worldwide pandemic.

(a) Findings.—Congress finds as follows:

(1) COVID–19 is a highly infectious respiratory illness caused by a virus called SARS–CoV–2. This disease has caused a worldwide pandemic affecting millions of people and has fundamentally altered the operations of the world’s cities, businesses, and schools.

(2) The outbreak of COVID–19 was first detected in Wuhan, China, and on January 21, 2020, the first confirmed case of COVID–19 was diagnosed in the United States.

(3) The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID–19 a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, and the President of the United States issued a national emergency declaration concerning the pandemic on March 13, 2020.

(4) To date, 194 million individuals have tested positive for COVID–19. Of those, 35 million are Americans; that is, more than one of every 10 Americans. Almost 4.2 million people have died from COVID–19 globally, and over 610,000 deaths have occurred in the United States.

(5) The first American received the COVID–19 vaccine on December 14, 2020. Since then, 163 million Americans have been vaccinated and 188.5 million have received at least one dose. The vaccine became available to every American adult 18 and older on April 19, 2021.


You can view the rest of the provisions at the link above. The funding requested is $250,000 for fiscal year 2022.

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