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Congress dumps downwinder compensation amendment

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, seen in this file photo from March 2023. Crapo blasted federal lawmakers this month for removing an amendment to expand and extend a program to compensate those affected by above ground nuclear testing fallout.
Mariam Zuhaib
/
AP
Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, seen in this file photo from March 2023. Crapo blasted federal lawmakers this month for removing an amendment to expand and extend a program to compensate those affected by above ground nuclear testing fallout.

Federal lawmakers threw out an amendment to the annual defense spending bill that would’ve expanded a nuclear fallout compensation program.

That amendment would’ve included Idahoans affected by downwind radiation for the first time.

Four of the top five counties in the country most affected by nuclear testing fallout in the mid-20th century are in Idaho. Those include Blaine, Custer, Gem and Lemhi counties.

But only people who lived in certain counties in Arizona, Nevada and Utah during that time and who eventually developed cancer currently qualify for downwinder compensation.

That’s a one-time payment of $50,000.

“Our country unknowingly poisoned those who mined, transported and milled uranium, those who participated in nuclear testing and those who lived downwind of the tests,” said Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) during a speech on the senate floor last week.

Crapo has been pushing to expand the current program compensating these people for more than a decade.

“To be clear, the government’s test of nuclear weapons caused this,” he said. “It is our solemn duty to compensate those who have suffered because of these tests.”

The now defunct amendment would’ve cost $143.4 billion over 10 years, according to an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office.

It passed the U.S. Senate last July on a 61-37 vote, but lawmakers reconciling the House and Senate versions cut the amendment earlier this month.

Crapo says he will work to expand and extend the program before it expires in June 2024.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!

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