Speaker Johnson Reverses on Radiation Compensation Renewal Bill After Opposition

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) on Wednesday reversed his decision to bring a vote to renew, but not expand, a compensation program for Americans exposed to radiation during the development and testing of nuclear weapons.

The speaker had scheduled a vote next week on a bill to reauthorize the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). But the announcement drew pushback from lawmakers in both parties who support another bill that would expand the program.

“After consulting with [Missouri] Congresswoman [Ann] Wagner, the Majority Leader [Steve Scalise] and Speaker have decided not to bring the proposed RECA reauthorization to the floor next week,” a spokesperson for Mr. Johnson said in an email to The Epoch Times on May 29.

Missouri’s congressional delegation, whose state was excluded, strongly opposed Mr. Johnson’s plan to extend the program without expanding it.

Ms. Wagner, a Republican who represents the district that includes St. Louis suburbs, responded to the announcement on X, formerly Twitter, saying, “It’s great news for [Missouri] that House leadership listened to my concerns & those of my constituents & pulled the Floor vote on this misguided proposal.”

RECA is set to expire on June 10, and there is disagreement on whether it should be renewed, expanded, or both. It was originally enacted in 1990 as a way of providing compensation for residents of areas affected by fallout from nuclear tests conducted from 1945 to 1962 as part of the Manhattan Project and ensuing programs.

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The program was reauthorized in 2022 for two years, but as another deadline to renew approaches, some lawmakers want to see it expanded.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) sponsored a broader RECA renewal bill that passed the Senate in March with 69 votes. The expended bill would benefit residents in other states where uranium was mined and processed, including Mr. Hawley’s constituency, Missouri, and parts of Alaska.

It also broadens the scope of compensation to residents of areas downwind of testing sites, the so-called downwinders, and would include Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico, as well as the U.S. territory of Guam.

Mr. Hawley’s expanded RECA program would also extend the timeframe for eligible uranium workers to 1990 and broaden the list of diseases covered by the program. The expansion is expected to cost as much as $60 billion.

Mr. Johnson intended to bring a vote to renew the program to the floor next week to prevent its expiration, but it was not Mr. Hawley’s bill. Mr. Johnson intended to bring a cheaper, renewal-only version of the bill proposed by Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah), prompting criticism from members of both political parties who supported the expansion.

The legislation to reauthorize RECA with no expansion, HR 8097, sponsored by Rep. Celeste Maloy (R-Utah), has not undergone a Senate vote or been considered by a House committee.  It would have been considered by the House under suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority. Mr. Hawley said yesterday that he would oppose the bill at every step.

“Let me be clear: no RECA bill that excludes Missouri will pass the Senate by consent. I will demand every procedural vote. And every vote will be a reminder the House would rather fund foreign wars than compensate Americans poisoned by their government,” he wrote on X.
Following Mr. Johnson’s decision to discard the bare-bones renewal, Mr. Hawley urged him to pass the expanded bill, writing, “There is a RECA bill passed with nearly 70 votes by the Senate sitting in the House waiting for action. It’s the only viable option now.”
Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-N.M.) also voiced her approval on X, saying, “Speaker Johnson did the right thing pulling this vote on a RECA extension bill that left out so many.” Ms. Fernandez had been joined by Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.) and Sen. Ben-Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) at a May 16 press conference encouraging Mr. Johnson to push the expansion through.

The Epoch Times has reached out to Mr. Johnson’s office for comment.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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