Senate-passed radiation legislation left out of House spending bill

A standalone bill to expand and reauthorize a 30-year-old radiation compensation program that passed the Senate with a filibuster-proof majority will not be included in the text of a House appropriations bill.

The upper chamber had previously passed a standalone reauthorization of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), adding several states to its coverage and extending the law, set to expire this summer, a further five years. The bill passed the Senate 69-30 and, last week, bipartisan members of Missouri’s House delegation called on House leadership to include it in an upcoming appropriations bill.

In a statement Thursday, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) praised Rep. Ann Wagner’s (R-Mo.) advocacy to include the measure in the must-pass government funding bill but confirmed it would not be included in the text, saying, “I understand her position and I look forward to working closely with Ann as we chart a path together for the House to move forward with evaluating and acting on a reauthorization measure.”

The reauthorization bill’s provisions include expanding eligibility to cover Missourians who were exposed to radiation during wartime production of enriched uranium in the St. Louis area.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who co-sponsored the Senate bill, blasted its exclusion from the House measure Thursday, saying of Johnson’s statement, “Politicians have talked like this for decades. While doing nothing. The time to talk is over. The time to ACT is now. Put RECA on the floor and vote on it. Stop screwing around with Missouri.”

The bill faced similar hurdles in the Senate, originally passing as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which was later stripped during the conference process last year. A staffer with Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), another member who called for the bill to be included in the appropriations package, has confirmed to The Hill that if those efforts failed, proponents would seek a vote on a standalone measure akin to the one passed in the Senate.

“The push to reauthorize RECA is far from over,” Bush said in a statement. “I will not stop pushing the federal government to take full responsibility by cleaning up and compensating impacted communities in St. Louis, Missouri and across this country. The federal government wronged our communities—and now they have an obligation to make it right.”

Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), who cosponsored the Senate bill, called for the legislation to come up “without delay.”

“The Senate has voted twice – with strong bipartisan support – to strengthen the RECA program. The House has not held a single vote,” Lujan said in a statement to The Hill. “The Speaker should bring this legislation up for a vote without delay. Lives depend on it, the clock is running out, and the House must take action.”

Updated at 3:15 p.m.

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