Reca Extension Act of 2022

Floor Speech

Date: May 11, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. OWENS. Mr. Speaker, I extended some remarks a little earlier that I am going to repeat, but I wanted to just say, first of all, this has been a remarkable experience for me to see the bipartisanship that we have been able to come together with.

I thank Congresswoman Leger Fernandez. I really appreciate the support, reaching out, what we have been able to do to get this done.

I think, most importantly, even those who might not agree, we saw in this process who can respectfully agree to disagree. We still moved this forward, so we have something that is not only bipartisan but bicameral. We have had support in the Senate, and I just can't say enough how much I appreciate the opportunity to experience this.

It is going to be good for the citizens throughout the Western part of our country, and I look forward to being able to take this a little bit further as we continue to have this conversation over the next coming months and years.

S. 4119 is a clean and simple extension of the existing Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. It represents an incredible and increasingly rare achievement here in Congress: a bipartisan solution to a nonpartisan problem.

During 1945 and 1962, the United States conducted over 100 aboveground nuclear tests, releasing harmful radiation material into the air and literally blanketing parts of the United States, including Utah, with poisonous dust.

RECA, championed by the late Senator Orrin Hatch, was a lifeline for thousands of downwinders whose lives were lost or forever changed because of this exposure.

Unless Congress acts, the program will expire in 2 months. That will leave downwinders like Sara Penny of Cedar City, Utah, behind. Her story was cataloged in the ``Downwinders of Utah Archive.''

Penny was born in 1953, the same year the ``Dirty Harry'' bomb was tested in Nevada. She said: ``We knew we could die any day from about fifth grade. Our piano teacher's daughter . . . died of leukemia.''

Her grandfather died of leukemia. Her aunt died of breast cancer. Her cousin had a bone marrow transplant from his brother but died anyway. Her high school classmate died earlier from a brain tumor. Her cousin got breast cancer.

Her story is tragic but not unique. Too many downwinders are suffering. Just last week, I heard from constituents who were starting the process of applying for RECA benefits. These are individuals who lived in the shadows of radiation released in our beautiful Western skies.

We have a chance to make right what the Federal Government got wrong when it conducted these nuclear tests in our backyard. We just cannot walk away from RECA.

For Sara and the downwinders, please join me, please join us, in voting ``yes'' on S. 4119, the RECA Extension Act of 2022.

I again thank Congresswoman Leger Fernandez. It has been an honor to work with her, and we will get this pushed through. I look forward to it.