An expansion and reauthorization of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act was overwhelmingly backed by the Senate in August, but the measure was stripped from the House version of the annual defense bill and wasn’t included in the final bill.
And Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, the measure’s cosponsor and one of its biggest champions on Capitol Hill, is not taking the change lying down, calling out leaders of his party over the issue for what he says is a “betrayal” to the victims affected by radiation.
When Hawley was asked last week why the measure was removed from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), he pointed to the top GOP leaders in Congress, telling The Hill “you ought to ask” House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky about the exclusion.
Hawley, a first-term senator who’s up for reelection in 2024, told The Hill that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York had both been “supportive” of the measure, but he said he was unclear about Johnson and McConnell’s rationale for the measure falling out of the bill.
“Morally, this is obscene,” the Missourian told the publication.
Hawley cosponsored the amendment with fellow Missouri GOP Sen. Eric Schmitt, along with Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico and GOP Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho.
The original 1990 law provided compensation to American citizens who had been exposed to nuclear waste radiation in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah; the reauthorization would include sites in Colorado, Missouri, New Mexico, and Guam, while also providing funds for an additional 19 years.
President Joe Biden in 2022 extended the law, but that extension is set to end next year.
Hawley in the past has pledged to vote against and block the NDAA if it did not include the reauthorization. And his statements last week only affirmed his continued fight for compensation for victims affected by radiation.
“This is a major betrayal of thousands and thousands of Missourians who have been lied to and ignored for years,” Hawley wrote on X last week. “It is also a betrayal of the tens of thousands of Americans made sick by their government’s nuclear waste who have relied on this program for life-saving help. They are now left to fend for themselves as the program expires.”
“As I promised, I will vote against this bill that betrays the commitment this nation made to nuclear test victims — and do everything in my power to stop it,” he added.
Business Insider reached out to Johnson’s office and McConnell’s office for comment.
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