Negotiations continue in Washington over a final version of the National Defense Authorization bill, which currently contains funding for radiation victims in the St. Louis area. U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, said if that funding is stripped out, he’ll vote “no” on the bill and try to block it.

“Yes, absolutely I would,” he told Missourinet. “I will make it as difficult as possible to pass.”

Hawley was asked why he thought it was more important at this moment to get payment to radiation victims than to make sure active duty personnel get their paychecks and that defense systems are funded. He responded by saying the defense bill is “full of billions of dollars in spending on defense contractors and other giveaways to the defense industry,” and that he won’t allow them to get “fat government contracts…while the people of St. Louis die of cancer.”

But U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo. 6th District, is confident funding for radiation victims will remain in the bill.

“I think, ultimately, what will happen is the House will agree to the amendment. I think it makes sense and I think Senator Hawley did a great job getting that in there,” Graves told Missourinet. “I am on the conference committee, and I do think that we will be able to retain that provision.”

The amendment would extend the current Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), which is set to expire next year, for another 19 years. It would also provide compensation to radiation victims in the western U.S. and the island of Guam that were exposed to radiation through above-ground nuclear testing more than half a century ago.

Graves said they plan to have a final version of the defense bill ready this month and voted over to President Biden before the end of the year.

Copyright 2023, Missourinet.