Letter: We won’t forgive Utah’s congressional delegation for its failure to expand RECA

It is especially unsettling that they not only didn’t support the expansion, but some have worked against it.

It is unforgivable that Congress failed to act on the Senate bill to expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) before the program expired last Friday. It is especially unsettling that Utah’s own congressional delegation not only didn’t support the expansion, but some have worked against it, even though it would benefit their own constituents.

In the June 7 Tribune article “Program to pay nuclear fallout victims expires due to U.S. House’s inaction”, Rep. Celeste Maloy is quoted saying, “to the people calling this a betrayal, we hear you.”  No, she doesn’t.  She hasn’t listened to us. She hasn’t met with us herself.  Instead of pushing for expansion, she said she is looking to reauthorize the current program “without spending tens of billions of dollars that isn’t related to radiation exposure and government action.”  She doesn’t seem to understand that the expansion is about adding areas that were poisoned by radiation exposure from government activities but which have been excluded from RECA — including northern Utah, where the majority of Utah’s population lives.

This should not be about cost, which even Mike Lee (R-Utah) said on the Senate floor last month. “We don’t just not do this because it’s expensive … The loss of life is expensive.” Congress has plenty of money to invest in nuclear weapons and military spending, but claims it can’t afford to take care of citizens the U.S. government harmed.

Maloy’s extension bill, which does nothing to fix RECA, has already failed in the Senate. Instead of resisting the expansion, she and her Utah colleagues in the House should respect the public’s will and urge Speaker Johnson to bring the Senate bill to the House floor for a vote as soon as possible. We as a community and as a country owe it to those who were harmed by activities deemed necessary for our national defense to acknowledge their sacrifice and do the right thing.

Mary Dickson, Salt Lake City

Steve Erickson, Salt Lake City

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