Josh Hawley is playing both offense and defense in his continuing attempt to get the federal government to compensate victims of atomic bomb-era radiation in Missouri and elsewhere.
The Missouri senator’s amendment to reauthorize and expand the 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) was stripped out of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week by congressional leaders – including those in the Republican’s own party.
But even after the Senate’s initial procedural vote to approve the bill Thursday, with final approval expected in the next week or two, Hawley isn’t giving up. He slowed the proceedings on Thursday with a forced roll call vote on the NDAA rather than a voice vote – and promises to lay down in front of it going forward.
“I can slow it down. I can’t block it,” Hawley told The Heartlander on Thursday before the vote, noting that the bill is now a joint House-Senate conference report, so it can’t be stopped. “But I can make it painful. And I’m absolutely going to. I’m starting today. Today we’re taking votes that we normally don’t because I have demanded them and I’m going to do everything I can to slow it down and to tell people about the victims, the folks, the good folks of Missouri – and the whole country – who are about to lose all of their compensation.
“In Missouri’s case, we never got any to begin with. We’re going to lose all of it because of this decision to shut down this program.”
Hawley has been dogged and vehement in his support of the reauthorization – which would extend compensation to Missouri victims of radioactive waste left over from nuclear processing in the St. Louis region, and which had passed both chambers before being stripped out by leadership. Hawley introduced national media to Missouri radiation victims on a conference call, and later hosted some on Capitol Hill.
The victims have told poignant stories of lingering personal ailments as well as illnesses and deaths among their loved ones, after working to help America win WWII and the Cold War.
Why would leadership, including in his own party, strip the compensation out of the defense bill?
“I have no idea,” Hawley says. “I don’t understand why we have billions and billions and billions of dollars for Ukraine, apparently unlimited, and we have unlimited funds for defense contractors. But we have nothing for the people of Missouri who’ve been poisoned by their own government because of the government’s nuclear radiation and waste.
“It’s unbelievable to me. It’s also not acceptable. I’m not going to stand for it. I’m not going to allow this to die here. We’re going to go right back and keep fighting for this until we get it passed.”
To that end, Hawley is going on the offensive as well, saying, “I promise you I will seek to get this onto any [bill] that moves through these two chambers. This program expires in just a few months and I’m just not going to take no for an answer.”
In another national media call Monday, Hawley called the radiation victim compensation reauthorization a “moral imperative.” On Wednesday he called the amendment’s removal from the defense bill “a major betrayal of thousands and thousands of Missourians who have been lied to and ignored for years.
“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 lifesaving help. They are now left to fend for themselves as the program expires.”
In a speech on the Senate floor Thursday he called the amendment’s removal “a grave injustice.”