Speaker Johnson Faces Heat Over Delayed Radiation Compensation Expansion

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) is under fire for delaying a Senate-approved bill to expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), which aims to provide benefits to more Americans exposed to radiation. Proponents argue that the delay is stalling crucial support for those affected.

Advocates met with Johnson’s staff this week but felt pushed toward accepting a less comprehensive version of the bill. “It felt like their hope was that you all would want an extension at some point and that would be their out,” one advocate told The Hill.

The Senate passed the expansion in March, aiming to increase eligibility, boost payments, and extend the program for six years. However, this version would add $50 billion to $60 billion in new spending, according to The Hill.

Current RECA benefits expired on June 10. Although a vote was scheduled on a slimmed-down version just before the expiration, it was pulled back without explanation. “I don’t think [Johnson] had the votes,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) told The Hill, noting the need for bipartisan support to pass the measure on suspension.

Hawley, a co-sponsor of the Senate bill, criticized Johnson for not advancing the expanded version that would benefit Missourians exposed to radiation during World War II-era nuclear testing. The Department of Justice describes RECA as an apology fund for those who developed illnesses from working in the uranium industry.

“Many ‘downwind’ communities are excluded from compensation. The expansion bill would include thousands of New Mexicans, as well as residents of Idaho, Montana, Colorado, and Guam,” explained a Source NM article. The bill also acknowledges communities affected by nuclear waste in Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alaska.

RECA was originally enacted in 1990, championed by the late Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Advocates argue that expanding the program is necessary to address the ongoing health issues faced by those exposed to radiation, but they express frustration with the current legislative hold-up.

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