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Reagan dime off the table
FDR likely to stay on the ten-cent piece, but Reagan may get the ten-dollar bill.
June 22, 2004: 6:30 PM EDT
By Les Christie, CNN/Money contributing writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Of all the ways being considered to honor Ronald Reagan, the push to put his face on the dime -- replacing that of Franklin Roosevelt -- is unlikely to happen.

In an earlier version of this story, CNN/Money incorrectly attributed a quote saying that the Reagan dime was "pretty much dead" to Jim LaFemina of the U.S. Mint public affairs office. It was actually made by Michael White, also of the U.S. Mint's press office.

Legislation to put Reagan on the dime was first introduced last November by Mark Souder, a Republican Representative from Indiana, and gained renewed attention after the 40th president passed away earlier this month.

There are two ways an American's face can wind up on a coin or currency, LaFemina said. One is for Congress to pass a bill. The second is for the Secretary of the Treasury to make an administrative decision to do it. The Secretary can make a change to each coin once within a 25-year period.

In practice, however, Treasury Secretaries almost never make such decisions without a nod from Congress, said press secretary Jim LaFemina.

Nancy Reagan issued a press statement against the Reagan dime last December. "I do not support this proposal and I am certain Ronnie would not," the statement read. "When our country chooses to honor a great president such as Franklin Roosevelt by placing his likeness on our currency, it would be wrong to remove him."

With that sentiment in mind, Souder had put the legislation on the back burner and has decided not to pursue it even when the idea was resurrected after Reagan's death, according to the Souder press secretary Mark Green.

Honors committee

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist this month appointed a four-member group of Senators to determine the best ways to honor Reagan. They will present recommendations to Frist in mid-July.

The four are expected to push for putting Reagan on the $10 bill. Senator Mitch McConnell, a member of the group, could not be reached to confirm this and a spokeperson for Senator Ted Stevens, another member, refused to comment on what the recommendations would be.

Grover Norquist, president of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project and an influential conservative activist, said he is still urging the four to consider putting Reagan on half the dimes minted every year.

Norquist indicated that possibility could be used for leverage should Congressional Democrats balk at the Reagan ten. "Congressional Democrats have threatened to filibuster any Reagan ten-dollar bill legislation," Norquist said. If they do, Norquist said conservatives might argue again for the Reagan dime, which would be a direct assault on FDR, an icon of the Democratic party.

Some Democrats have reacted to even the slim chance that FDR would lose half his place on the dime, as well as the half-dollar coin, featuring John Kennedy, with measured criticism.

Jennifer Petty, executive director of the Democrats for America's Future, a grassroots organization that counts former Clinton political guru James Carville, ex-Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, and former Senator Carol Mosely Braun on its advisory board, says her group has "no problem honoring President Reagan. But FDR and JFK are important figures in American history and we don't think it's fair to erase their legacy."

The group has taken no position on the Reagan ten.

The official response from the Democratic National Committee to both the Reagan ten and the dime proposals, according to Jano Cabrera, a spokesperson for the DNC, is that Reagan should be honored in some way, but just how is being debated in Congress and the Democrats "will defer to our lawmakers" on what would be most appropriate.

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A Reagan $10 bill would displace Alexander Hamilton, the Federal era founder of the U.S. banking system, who has no connections to either of the two current major political parties (except that he was killed by a Democrat, Aaron Burr). Representative Souder has switched his support to the Reagan ten. He believes, "There's a real possibility of reaching a bipartisan consensus on that," Green said.

In addition to the $10 bill, other possibilities being considered by the Senate committee reportedly include a commemorative coin and a medal to those who champion international peace. The postal service announced on June 16, that it would issue a Reagan stamp early next year.  Top of page

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