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Craig demands RECA reform

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Both of Idaho's senators claim to be working in the best interest of nuclear downwinders, but they are doing it in very different ways. Mike Crapo, created legislation earlier this year to roundly include Idaho in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), which covers victims of 19 different fallout-related cancers if they lived in a fallout path when nuclear blasts happened at the Nevada Test Site. Crapo told BW the bill was an "interim step," because RECA might soon be overhauled according to more scientific standards recommended from the National Academies of Sciences--standards that would, according to the NAS, open up the entire nation for compensation but "result in few successful claims."

Larry Craig, on the other hand, co-sponsored Crapo's legislation, but also last week took a step toward enacting the NAS reforms. On November 9, Craig inserted RECA-related language in the 2006 Department of Justice appropriations bill, directing the Department to submit a report "detailing those actions that the department and the Congress can take to implement the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences report on the coverage of affected populations by [RECA]." He gave a deadline of 90 days after the enactment of the appropriations bill for the report.

The two bills seem to espouse entirely different goals--one increases the chance of compensation right away, the other pushes a scheme that makes it highly unlikely. However, in a statement released after the appropriations bill passed the House of Representatives, Congressman Mike Simpson called it "A very significant development for Idaho's downwinders. They have a great advocate in Senator Craig."

In a Senate colloquy with Senate Judiciary Chariman Arlen Specter on October 25, Crapo agreed that such reforms were necessary, but called them "long-term challenges," which should be undertaken after a short-term compensation program. Oh, well, senator. Thanks for playing. We have some nice parting gifts for you.