Hawley Unleashes Bill Protecting Vulnerable Workers

Separately, on Thursday, the Senate will vote on a measure introduced by Republican Josh Hawley of Missouri that would prolong and renew federal legislation that pays Americans exposed to radiation.

In light of the expansion’s almost year-long history of pointless amendments and failed starts, Hawley recently expressed his discontent with outgoing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). In anticipation of Thursday afternoon’s voting, supporters keep their fingers crossed that the resolution can pass independently.

Federal nuclear testing and uranium mining during WWII and the Cold War exposed certain people to radiation; the 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) compensates these people. It was in 1990 when the statute was initially enacted.

The RECA is still set to expire later this year, even though President Biden extended it for another two years in 2022 by an administrative order. As per Hawley’s Monday confirmation, a separate bill that would add Guam, Colorado, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri to the law’s coverage and prolong it for five more years is set to be voted on by the Senate this week. A unanimous vote was taken to approve the measure.

During the conference process, a bipartisan amendment that would have expanded and reauthorized the National Defense Authorization Act was removed despite having passed the Senate with a supermajority. Hawley held McConnell and Republican leaders accountable for this. With that change, the statute would have been extended by an additional nineteen years.

Uncertainty surrounds Hawley’s action as two Republicans, John Cornyn (R-Texas) and John Thune (R-S.D.), are vying to succeed McConnell as head of the Senate GOP caucus. According to Hawley, their votes on the RECA bill would affect his decision, but he has not decided whether to support the top job.

On Monday, White House spokesman Josh Hawley said that “we have every reason to believe” Biden will sign the law when it reaches his desk; on Wednesday, the administration reiterated this position. The announcement continued by stating that the President believes we must address toxic exposure, especially among those harmed by the government’s actions.

Victims of radiation exposure frequently lack the means (both time and money) to care for themselves adequately. The planned extension would encompass not just the other states not originally protected by the statute but also uranium workers who worked from 1971 to 1990. According to the legislation, coverage is not extended beyond 1971.