Democrat and Republican lawmakers join forces to say: “Expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act” September 21, 2023

Photo: Orlando Bell

Democrat and Republican Senators and Representatives joined forces for a remarkable September 20 press event to express bipartisan support for expanding and extending the protections offered by the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). PSR is a member of the “RECA Working Group” and assisted with travel arrangements for some of the Downwinders, atomic veterans, and Navajo uranium miners who traveled from New Mexico, Utah, Missouri and even Guam to participate in this historic event on the Capitol lawn.

Senators Lujan, Hawley and Crapo successfully amended these RECA provisions to the Senate Pentagon spending bill (see August Monitor blog) but the outcome still depends on a House–Senate conference. Even at a moment where bipartisan consensus is crushingly difficult to forge, the legislators pledged to work together across the aisle to get this vital legislation over the finish line. In addition to a substantial mass media turnout, PSR Nuclear Weapons Abolition Program intern Orlando Bell was on hand to capture the event with photos and quotes.

Left to right: Senator Ben Ray Luján (speaking), Senator Eric Schmitt (behind Luján) , Representative Teresa Leger Fernandez, Representative James Moylan, Senator Josh Hawley. Photo: Orlando Bell

Senator Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico
“We can correct this injustice in America. This package is alive!”

Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri
“If the government is going to expose its own citizens… the government ought to pay the bills. Justice for these hardworking people is not a partisan issue. I am talking to anybody who will listen. [The radiation victims] have never given up, they’ve been told over and over that they were crazy, they were blowing this out of proportion. They’ve been right all along. Now they deserve to have their voices heard, to have respect, to have compensation. We are here to demand justice.”

Teresa Ledger Fernandez, New Mexico
“Justice is not complete until it is justice for all. They deserve to receive compensation, they deserve to receive healthcare. We can save lives if we pass this. This is the historical moment when we finally get this accomplished ”

Senator Eric Schmitt, Missouri
“The number of people who have been impacted by this through no fault of their own is stunning. This was their government–that dumped toxic chemicals into their water, into the soil, and lied about it. And now is the time to make that right and now is the time to come together for the common cause of justice and make sure they get the compensation they deserve.”

Dawn Chapman, co-founder of Just Moms-St. Louis
“We’ve been isolated and separated and that’s not going to happen anymore. It’s time for the country to step up. No more lies, no more separation.”

Speaker of the Navajo Nation, Crystalyne Curley
“It is time to do what is just, what is right and what is long overdue.”

Photo: Orlando Bell

Tina Cordova, Co-founder, Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium
“They didn’t warn us before or afterwards.” Talking of her family and her daughter now being the 5th generation to have rare forms of cancer: “This is our history, this is the legacy of nuclear testing. We will never go away, there are generations standing behind us. We will never stop fighting.”

Photo: Orlando Bell

Phil Harrison, Founding member of Navajo Uranium Radiation Victims Committee
“[Uranium miners from the Navajo nation] simply wanted to feed their families. We protected national security so you all can have freedom.”

Photo: Orlando Bell

Mary Dickson, Utah Downwinder
“I can’t have children because of what my government did. We have buried and mourned the dead and we have comforted and advocated for the living. I hope that Congress does the right thing at last. ”

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