Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has proposed adding an amendment to the Senate’s supplemental foreign aid package expanding compensation for Americans exposed to radiation after a similar amendment was stripped from a national Defense package last year.
The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), enacted three decades ago, compensates those exposed to radiation from World War II-era nuclear testing and ore mining. However, it only makes that compensation available to claimants exposed to radiation in Utah, Nevada and Arizona. It does not extend to the families of those living in New Mexico, the site of the 1945 Trinity atomic test, or Missouri, where runoff from wartime uranium processing heavily contaminated St. Louis’s Coldwater Creek.
“Hundreds of thousands of people, who depend on this program for lifesaving help, will be left literally to die if this program expires. And the people around me that you see will get no help unless we do something,” Hawley said at the U.S. Capitol Thursday, accompanied by local advocates.
President Biden extended the law for two years in 2022, when it was set to expire. Both amendments co-sponsored by Hawley would extend it another 19 years.
An earlier RECA expansion amendment, co-sponsored by Hawley and Sens. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), passed the Senate with a supermajority last year as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but was removed during conference with House leaders. That amendment would have expanded the law’s coverage to those in New Mexico, Missouri, Idaho, Montana, Guam and Colorado. Hawley’s amendment this week would expand it further to Tennessee, Kentucky and Alaska.
The Missouri senator singled Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for the removal of the NDAA amendment, saying in December that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) “said McConnell went to him and said ‘I don’t want RECA in there. I want to get rid of it,’ From the very beginning, it was like McConnell’s going to be a problem.”
— Updated at 12:41 p.m.