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Amendment to expand RECA passed by U.S. Senate

Members of the Tularosa Downwinders Consortium protest near the Trinity Site during an open-house event at the site.
Tularosa Downwinders Consortium
Members of the Tularosa Downwinders Consortium protest near the Trinity Site during an open-house event at the site.

On Thursday evening the U.S. Senate passed an amendment to the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act to expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, also known as RECA. The amendment would bring eligibility for compensation to New Mexico downwinders and post-1971 uranium miners.

The bipartisan amendment was sponsored by Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, and co-sponsored by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo and New Mexico Senator Ben Ray Luján.

In a written statement, Senator Luján said, “The federal government must do right by these communities, and today’s Senate vote is a step in the right direction toward justice … Today, the Senate took the most significant vote on RECA since the program was first adopted.”

Lilly Adams, Senior Outreach Coordinator with the national nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists, said that expanding RECA should be a priority for lawmakers.

“This is an incredible step forward for all the communities that have been exposed to radiation. We weren’t sure exactly how this was going to build momentum, but this is a really exciting step.”

The amendment still has to make it through the House of Representatives before reaching the president’s desk, but Adams said she is hopeful it will survive.

“I think we just saw a really strong vote in the Senate," Adams said. "There was a lot of bipartisan support for this. I can’t put an exact prediction on it, but I think that the Senate vote is a really powerful marker, and hopefully we can build on that.”

With the expiration of RECA less than a year away, advocates say they’ll continue their efforts to expand the law.

Jonny Coker is a Multimedia Journalist for KRWG Public Media. He has lived in Southern New Mexico for most of his life, growing up in the small Village of Cloudcroft, and earning a degree in Journalism and Media Studies at New Mexico State University.
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