U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley proposes adding radiation exposure bill to stalled tax package

Republished from Kentucky Lantern


WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri thinks he’s found a path for stalled tax legislation that would temporarily expand the child tax credit and restore business tax breaks that are expired or have sunset under the 2017 tax law.

Hawley’s idea is to attach the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to the tax bill to entice his party colleagues to pass it through the upper chamber — including top tax writer and radiation compensation champion Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho. The House already has passed the tax package with overwhelming bipartisan support.

“I think if they want to move the tax bill, I would say put RECA onto the tax bill and move them together. I think you can get 60 (votes) for that. I would go for it. I think other people would vote for it. It’s hard to see a path if that doesn’t happen, to be honest with you,” Hawley told States Newsroom and a small group of reporters Tuesday.

Hawley’s RECA proposal would expand the expiring compensation fund for victims of past government radiation and atomic bomb testing in the St. Louis area and the western and southwestern U.S.

Senators voted in favor of the bill in March, 69-30.

When asked by States Newsroom if the proposal — first reported by Punchbowl News —  had gained traction, Hawley said he’s “talked to multiple senators about this and where my position is.”

“Listen, I don’t control the floor. So it’s not my decision. But I’m just saying that if they want to move that bill … I can only control my own vote, but I’d vote for it,” he said.

Senate GOP opposition to tax bill

Some Senate Republicans refuse to support the tax bill over a Democratic proposal to allow taxpayers to receive the child tax credit even if they had no annual income the prior year — a “look-back” provision that they liken to expanding welfare.

Several also oppose a provision that would phase-in the credit at a faster rate, therefore increasing the amount parents could receive as a refund.

Crapo, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Finance and lead Senate Republican negotiator on the tax bill, has championed compensation for victims of government radiation exposure.

The Idaho Republican’s invited guest to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address in March was Tona Henderson, head of the Idaho Downwinders in Emmett, Idaho, a group that advocates for compensation for Idahoans affected by government nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s and 1960s.

A Senate Finance Committee spokesperson said Crapo does not have any comment about Hawley’s idea.

A staunch opponent of the tax legislation, GOP Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, said Hawley’s proposal does nothing to move his position.

“You’re talking about the tax legislation I oppose?” he said when asked by States Newsroom Tuesday if attaching RECA would change his mind. “No.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee and originally sponsored the tax bill, said he hasn’t yet been briefed on the proposal, which also would have to make it through the Republican-controlled House.

“But, you know, when I hear United States senators, particularly Republicans, say that they’re interested in families and small businesses, and getting a roof over people’s heads, I think that’s a good thing,” the Oregon Democrat said.

Wyden said he’s interested in “approaches that add votes, don’t subtract votes.”

What Republicans want to do — strip the bill of the look-back provision for the child tax credit — would alienate Democratic supporters of the bill, Wyden said.

“What has been offered thus far by the Senate Republicans would not get a single Democratic vote, and the sponsors of it know that.”

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