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Reagan supporters want to see their hero pictured on U.S. money
WASHINGTON -- Ronald Reagan's enthusiastic supporters say the late president deserves a place on the nation's currency, even if it means a lesser or disappearing role for Franklin D. Roosevelt, Alexander Hamilton or Andrew Jackson.
Getting their hero's face on the dime may be easier than other goals, such as seeing it etched on Mount Rushmore, but that idea still will be resisted by Democrats defending their own icon, FDR.
Honoring the late president with new coins or paper money is only one of several ideas being advanced by Reagan admirers: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has suggested legislation to rename the Pentagon the Ronald Reagan National Defense Building.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., a speechwriter in the Reagan White House, plans to introduce a bill to put Reagan on the $20 bill, replacing another venerable Democrat, Andrew Jackson.
That would join a previous proposal, by Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., to provide for dimes bearing the likeness of Reagan.
The office of Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he would pursue an idea he has pushed for several years, placing Reagan on the $10 bill now bearing the visage of Hamilton, the first Treasury secretary.
Chris Butler of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, which has the goal of seeing a Reagan commemoration in every American county, said its top legislative priority is the $10 bill. He noted that money can be changed administratively without congressional action, and suggested that Reagan dimes could join, rather than replace, FDR dimes.
The Treasury secretary can change the design of coins, usually after consulting Congress, but spokeswoman Anne Womack Kolton said, "We believe it is premature at this point to discuss any possible changes to the currency."
Replacing FDR would not happen without a battle. Last November, on the same day Souder introduced his Reagan dime bill "in honor of his work in restoring American greatness and bringing freedom to captive nations around the world," Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., proposed a resolution affirming support of the FDR dime. More than half the House Democrats joined him as co-sponsors.
Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said Tuesday a decision on a $10 Reagan note should be left to historians, adding that "the best tribute we could pay to him" would be fully funding research into Alzheimer's, the disease that afflicted Reagan the last decade of his life.
Reagan's wife, Nancy, has also voiced opposition to the new dime. Souder last December praised the "humble nature" of Mrs. Reagan's comments but said he would continue to promote his bill, which has the support of GOP leaders, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
Butler, whose group is a wing of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform, pointed out that coins bearing the likeness of FDR and John F. Kennedy appeared within a year of their deaths. The Roosevelt dime came out in 1946, in part commemorating his support for the March of Dimes campaign to fight polio. The Lincoln penny was issued in 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the president's birth.
Besides paper and metal, Reagan advocates have long pushed to see their champion honored more widely in stone. Butler said there are now some 54 highways, schools, post offices and other memorials to Reagan around the country, but that still pales in comparison with the more than 600 for Kennedy and more than 800 for Martin Luther King.
Up to now, the biggest victories have been the renaming of Washington's National Airport after the 40th president and the opening in Washington of the Ronald Reagan Building, the second largest government office building after the Pentagon. Last year the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan was commissioned.
Still in the works is the idea of a monument to Reagan on the National Mall in Washington, deterred by a law -- signed by Reagan -- that bars new monuments until a person has been dead 25 years.
Similarly, it is the U.S. Postal Service's practice to honor a president on the first anniversary of his death. There's a 10-year waiting period before other deceased personages can get a stamp.
Then there is Mount Rushmore.
It will take a long time to study the geophysical and artistic feasibility of that project, Butler said. But "is he great enough to be on Mount Rushmore? Yes."
On the Net:
Ronald Reagan Legacy Project: http://www.reaganlegacy.org/