Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) is determined to push forward an important legislative update concerning Americans affected by radiation exposure due to government activities. He plans to introduce an amendment that would not only renew but also broaden the scope of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA).
This amendment aims to extend benefits to additional states, including New Mexico, Missouri, Idaho, Montana, Guam, Colorado, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alaska.
In a persuasive message to his fellow Republican senators, Hawley highlighted the bipartisan support the reauthorization bill received in the Senate previously, emphasizing the nationwide impact and the moral imperative behind the legislation.
“Our reauthorization bill passed the Senate last summer with a strong bipartisan vote, and I am grateful for much support from our Conference,” Hawley stated. “Now, we must finish the job. There are RECA claimants in every state, including each of yours. They will benefit if this bill is passed. Simply put, this is the right thing to do.”
This legislative effort comes at a critical juncture, with a potential government shutdown looming by the week’s end if a budget consensus is not reached. The RECA, initially established in 1990, offers compensation to individuals affected by nuclear testing and uranium mining, primarily covering Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona residents and their descendants.
However, significant gaps remain, particularly for those Downwinders in New Mexico, the site of the 1945 Trinity atomic bomb test, and Missouri residents exposed through uranium processing activities at Mallinckrodt Chemical Works.
Although Joe Biden has previously extended the act, which was due to expire in 2022, for an additional two years, it faces expiration again this year without further legislative action. Senator Hawley, alongside Senators Ben Ray Lujan (D-New Mexico), Eric Schmitt (R-Missouri), and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), had successfully included the reauthorization and expansion in the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last year.
Despite achieving a supermajority vote in the Senate, the amendment was not incorporated in the final NDAA version after the House conference, necessitating renewed efforts to secure its passage.