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Aimless U.S. House denies downwinders


Last summer I wrote a column praising the United States Senate for finally passing a bill to compensate those in southern New Mexico who suffered illness and death following exposure to the world’s first atomic blast at Trinity site.

I ended the column with this: “That’s the good news. The bad news is the bill now moves to the House, which seems much more interested in exploring the cocaine-fueled antics of Hunter Biden than doing anything to help the people they serve.”

Last week, the House stripped funding in the defense bill for the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. That same week, Speaker Mike Johnson announced plans to move forward with a formal impeachment inquiry of Joe Biden.

I’m not claiming to be some kind of fortune teller for being able to predict this House of Representatives would put politics ahead of the people. That’s been obvious for a while.

The problem isn’t a lack of money. The National Defense Authorization Act calls for $886.3 billion in new spending.

It includes a 5.2 percent raise for both service members and the civilian workforce; authorizes the Navy to buy 10 new Virginia-class nuclear submarines; funds a new program to develop a nuclear-armed, sea-launched cruise missile; and increases funding for the LGM-35A Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile program, the Fleet Ballistic Missile Strategic Weapon System and the Hypersonic Targets and Countermeasures Program, among many, many others.

Given the circumstances at that time, it may be understandable that no warning was given to residents living near the Trinity Site before atomic power was unleashed for the first time in 1945. But the neglect shown toward those residents since then is unforgivable.

It took Congress 45 years to acknowledge the harm it had created. The Radium Exposure Compensation Act of 1990 was a belated effort to help the families of those who lost parents and grandparents following the blast and who continue to deal with adverse health impacts to this day.

But, for reasons that must have had more to do with politics and influence than science and justice, those living downwind from Trinity were not included.

The vote in the Senate to right that wrong was 86-11. In all of the reporting on the House bill, there was no explanation for why the funding was not included, other than cost.

“Despite bipartisan support, Republican leadership blocked the inclusion of this critical provision in the NDAA,” explained Sen. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico.

Sen. Josh Hawley, whose home state of Missouri was also excluded from the original RECA bill, has vowed to hold up passage of the entire NDAA unless funding is restored. So maybe it’s not over yet.

And, even if the bill gets through the Senate against Hawley’s objections, there’s still a good chance that it, and all other significant legislation being considered this year, stalls in a dysfunctional and leaderless House. Either way, if compensation doesn’t pass this year the fight will continue.

I’ve got an idea. How about if we build nine Virginia-class nuclear submarines and use the money for the 10th to acknowledge and in some small way compensate the innocent victims whose lives have been forever changed by the actions of our government?