NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New Mexicans at the heart of the “Downwinders” movement took to the nation’s capital on Wednesday, pleading with House leaders to pass a bill that would expand help for people affected by nuclear testing and mining.

Near the steps of the U.S. Capitol, dozens were asking for an end to legislative gridlock in the House over a bill benefiting New Mexicans who have been affected by radiation exposure.

“We can correct this injustice in America. We can help more families. We can recognize those with the respect they have earned,” said New Mexico Sen. Ben Ray Luján.

For decades, New Mexicans have pushed for federal recognition of the effects of uranium mining and the impact the atomic bomb’s Trinity Test left on those who were “downwind” of the blast.

“For 13 years, we have had bills introduced in the U.S. Congress, and this is the closest we’ve ever been,” said Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium Co-Founder Tina Cordova.

Now, they are closer than ever to their goal. A bipartisan Senate effort, passed in July, provides compensation to victims of radiation exposure in the Tularosa Basin and elsewhere in New Mexico. However, since the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act, the possible first-time benefits for those groups have been awaiting a House vote.

If it passes the House, the changes to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act would allow people to apply for benefits through the federal program for another nearly two decades.