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Guam’s fight for radiation exposure compensation ‘far from over’

                                


By Mar-Vic Cagurangan


Despite nearly two decades of relentless lobbying, Guam’s hopes to finally be included in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act crumbled anew when the U.S. House Republican leadership let the program expire without extension or expansion.


While the RECA extension and expansion proposal received bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate, House Speaker Mike Johnson shunned its inclusion in the 2025  National Defense Authorization Act.


Guam Del. James Moylan said the House Rules Committee ruled his amendment to incorporate the RECA expansion language into the defense spending policy bill “out of order.” As a result, the language didn't make it to the floor for the House vote.

James Moylan

“The primary reason was that offset costs were not provided, which were estimated at around $50 billion,” Moylan said in a statement. “This mirrors the message from House leadership when referencing the RECA measure passed by the Senate, and many in the House, including myself, have been requesting for

 a vote to take place on the floor.”

 

RECA, the 1990 legislation that provided financial compensation for atomic test downwinders in three states and pre-1971 uranium miners, expired on June 10.


The expanded version would have added Guam, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana and New Mexico to the list of areas currently included in RECA, namely Nevada, Arizona and Utah.

 

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“The Republican leadership’s policy is that any new spending measure must

have an offset provided, to prevent uncontrolled spending or an unfunded mandate,” Moylan said. “There are others who believe the measure should be passed regardless, and thus allow the executive branch to identify the funds. We believe a combination of both is needed.”

 

The Pacific Association of Radiation Survivors led by Robert Celestial has been fighting for Guam’s inclusion in RECA, backed by the National Research Council’s 2005 report declaring the territory’s eligibility for compensation under the program.

 

“Guam did receive measurable fallout from atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in the Pacific between 1946 and 1958,” read the council’s report, which recommended that people living on island during that period be compensated under RECA “in a way similar to that of persons considered to be downwinders.”


Ginger Cruz

Despite the latest defeat, Moylan said the advocacy “is far from over” and “building more support along the way.”

 

He is banking on the Senate to include the language in its version of the NDAA in the coming weeks.

 

“If that fails, we have upcoming opportunities with the Farm Bill, a Veterans Omnibus Bill, other authorization measures, and even a lame duck period after the elections to make the attempt,” Moylan said. “The fact that members are still talking about a RECA expansion, or that no measure excluding Guam is on the table, symbolizes that we aren’t far from this expansion becoming a reality.”

 

At a press conference on Guam, congressional candidate Ginger Cruz described the House leadership’s action as “an absolute travesty.”


“How do you do that to people who contracted cancer because of what they did for our country?” the Democratic candidate said. “I was really crushed to hear that once again, a Republican party in Washington, D.C. has been completely unresponsive to the people of Guam.”


Pushing Congress to act requires “public pressure on politicians” with “compelling stories of the victims" to bring human faces to the issue.


“Where were they? They needed to be out there. We should have somebody in Washington who not only has that voice, who not only gets on the floor of the House like Josh Hawley did in the Senate and tell the stories of the survivors and of the people whose lives have been impacted forever and the sacrifices that they made during all those years when nuclear testing was going on,” Cruz said.


To raise Washington’s attention and advance the issue, she added, “you need to get those survivors on camera and talking to people. It's about the passion, it's about the strategy of getting that message heard, because the louder that message and the more compelling that message, the more it will move politicians to act.”





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