Victims of radiation exposure experience rare win in U.S. Senate: What to know and how to help August 25, 2023

Kansas City PSR’s Ann Suellentrop (left) meets with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO)

Last month, victims of radiation exposure in the U.S. received a rare win during Senate votes on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Senate was convening to vote on a slew of amendments to the NDAA put forth by various Senators. Among the hundreds of amendments proposed — unexpectedly, and with large thanks to PSR Kansas City leader Ann Suellentrop’s Congressional lobbying efforts — Sen. Josh Hawley [R-MO] introduced an amendment that would add specific Missouri residents to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), a domestic program that provides partial compensation to victims of radiation exposure. 

Sens. Ben Lujan [D-NM] and Mike Crapo [R-ID], champions of RECA in the Senate, worked with Sen. Hawley to include their entire RECA bill into his amendment, to make one large Senate NDAA amendment, S.Amdt.1058 to S.2226. The RECA Amendments of 2023 Act seeks to extend RECA for an additional 19 years and expand eligibility for victims of radiation exposure.

In a welcome surprise, the amendment passed, with a bi-partisan vote count of 61-37! This is a huge win for us! It shows growing support for bringing justice to the communities harmed by nuclear weapons. And it couldn’t have happened without the tireless advocacy from impacted community members, like the atomic veterans that PSR helped bring to DC to lobby Members of Congress, and who were on the Hill the very day that this momentous victory occurred. 

But the fight isn’t over. 

So, what happens next? Well, members of the Senate House Armed Services Committee (SASC), and members of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) and other House Representatives chosen by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy [R-CA-20th] will work together to reconcile the Senate and House versions of the NDAA. 

PSR, impacted community members, and other anti-nuclear organizations will be working together to build support among House Republicans tasked to come up with a singular NDAA document to support keeping RECA in the final version of the NDAA. If we can achieve that, and the NDAA receives enough votes to pass through Congress, then we will have successfully extended and expanded RECA to provide more comprehensive justice to victims of radiation exposure!

In the coming weeks, PSR will be turning to you to help us apply pressure to key stakeholders to ensure RECA stays in the NDAA to the end. Your voice matters — as constituents, you have the power to influence your Members of Congress to do the right thing, and this recent Senate victory is a prime example of the power of the people at work. 

Stay tuned for more information on how you can help bring justice to the communities who have been harmed the most by these weapons of mass genocide. 

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