March 3rd, 2010
01:01 PM ET
8 years ago

Lawmaker moves to put Reagan on the $50 bill

Could Reagan overtake Grant on the $50?

Could Reagan overtake Grant on the $50?

(CNN) - Should Ulysses S. Grant, the legendary Union general and 18th president of the United States, be bumped from his 96-year stint on the $50 bill?

Yes, according to one North Carolina Republican.

Rep. Patrick McHenry announced that he will introduce a measure that would replace Grant’s face with Ronald Reagan's, just in time for the 40th president's 100th birthday next February.

"President Reagan was a modern day statesman, whose presidency transformed our nation's political and economic thinking," McHenry said in a statement. "Through both his domestic and international policies he renewed America's self confidence, defeated the Soviets and taught us that each generation must provide opportunity for the next."

McHenry says it's only logical for Reagan to replace Grant on the $50 because several historians have ranked Reagan as a much better president than Grant. McHenry specifically cites a 2005 Wall Street Journal survey of scholars who placed Reagan at No. 6 and Grant at No. 29.

"Every generation needs its own heroes," McHenry also said. "One decade into the 21st century, it's time to honor the last great president of the 20th and give President Reagan a place beside Presidents Roosevelt and Kennedy."

Franklin Roosevelt's face currently appears on the dime while John F. Kennedy's image is on the half-dollar.

But not so fast, says Dr. John Marszalek, the executive director and managing editor of the Ulysses S. Grant Association.

Calling him a "beacon" of the 19th century, Marszalek said Grant deserves to keep his prominent spot on America's currency.

"His work in battling against inflation and getting the currency on stable footing opened the way for the economy boom of the late 19th century, Marszalek told CNN. "I don't know why he wouldn't be included, except people forget - it’s been a long time."

Marszalek also named a host of other Grant accomplishments, including efforts to promote the rights of freed slaves and native Americans, as well as his post-presidency, two-year tour of the world during which he negotiated the settlement of a dispute between Japan and China.

But the Grant administration was also beset by major scandals - close to a dozen in all — which is a primary reason that Grant had difficulty working with Congress and why many modern historians continue to rank the 18th president relatively low.

Still, Marszalek says Grant's death in 1885 was a "national phenomena" and is "still the biggest funeral any American has had to this day."

Grant supporters can rest easy for now though - the future of the legislation is highly in doubt. It would first have to clear the House Financial Services Committee where at least one Democrat is already expressing his opposition to the move.

"History has made its verdict," Rep. Brad Sherman of California told CNN. "Reagan's policies are controversial. Grant was in favor of winning the Civil War and keeping the Union together. The currency is not a place to score cheap political points."

It's not the first time Republican lawmakers have sought to immortalize Reagan's image on American currency. In 2004, Rep. Mark Souder introduced legislation to put Regan on the dime in place of Roosevelt. Souder dropped the move after Nancy Reagan publicly opposed the measure.

In the years since Reagan's death, GOP lawmakers have also considered, though abandoned, legislation placing Reagan on the $10 bill, in place of Alexander Hamilton, and on the $20, in place of Andrew Jackson.

Ultimately, any change to the nation's currency would require majority votes in both houses of Congress, where Democrats maintain large majorities.

Filed under: Ronald Reagan
soundoff (200 Responses)
  1. Ferret out the BS

    Noooooooo, please no. Greatness is a matter of perception.

    March 3, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  2. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Since the Penny is the lowest valued currency in the U.S., we should replace Abe with George W. Bush.

    March 3, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  3. jeff

    That sounds like a great idea. With all the spending he did, he is largely responsible for the value (or lack of), of our money. makes perfect sense to me! maybe we can put Obama and Bush v2.0 on some bills and honor all of those who have destroyed the value of our currency!

    March 3, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  4. richard

    NO, NO, NO!, NO!!!! Ronnie was not the great American hero this idiot thinks he was and he never served in the military like Grant did. Put his picture on a ruble if you want but not my $50.00 bill!!! You people in the south must be smoking better stuff than we get up north!

    March 3, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  5. sandy

    No, he should not be bumped from the $50.00 bill. Our currency reflects the men who made this country what it is. I think our currency should be left alone. By the way, Reagan did nothing for the poor, only the rich.

    March 3, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    And Grant was a much, much better general than Reagan.

    March 3, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  7. Oregon calling

    Can't lawmakers do things that REALLY MATTER to the American People? I am not a Republican OR a Democrat but for the sake of ALL American's sanity ...............


    'Nuff said

    Peace 🙂

    March 3, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  8. gino

    Will he have orange hair?

    March 3, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  9. Jim

    The right wing keeps trying to build this cult of persoanlity around Ronald Reagan. He did nothing that benefited anyone but the rich. He started the long string of deficits that are still a problem. Its easy to cut taxes and raise spending, no one complains. If they put him on the $50 bill I won't use them.

    March 3, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  10. Dexter Perry

    Put Ronald Reagan on the food stamps.... lol. Im serious though.

    March 3, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  11. Oregon calling

    oops I meant DONE!!!!

    Peace 🙂

    March 3, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  12. get real

    No, Mr. McHenry, this is not an important issue. You don't want Americans to have health care, you could care less about job creation, you aren't interested in making sure big banks follow some simple rules, BUT you do want to spend money redesigning the $50 bill to honor your idol.

    Do you know taxes were higher under Reagan than they currently are under Obama? It's the truth. Look it up folks.

    March 3, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  13. Carolyn

    I don't understand the fascination with Reagan. He was a mediocre actor who said what he was told to say. The USSR was already crumbling when he made his "tear down this wall" speech – he just happened to be in the right place at the right time. As for putting his face on the fifty dollar bill – FUGHEDDABOWDIT!!

    March 3, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  14. Jim Case

    You've got to be kidding me.

    March 3, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  15. korkea aika

    G W Bush was so horrible that Reagan looks human by comparsion. If every generation needs its heros, why not Jimmy Carter who has proven his dedication to mankind and embodied true service to humanity since leaving office??? I guess Rep Mchenry considers Iran Contra (stepping on the US constitution) and the savings & loan bust (a mere $16billion bailout of taxpayer money) are nothing compared to the abuses of Geo Walker Bush. I would tend to agree. But Jimmy Carter reflects our values more timelessly than Reagan ever will.

    March 3, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  16. Jeffer65

    I have notihing against Reagan, but don't these lawmakers have anything better to do? Of course the way things are going, our currency won't worth anything so maybe he should be on it.

    March 3, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  17. Pam in Oregon

    If it passes, I will make sure that I get smaller bills.

    Pam in Oregon

    March 3, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  18. Steve

    Why are our congressman wasting time with stupid stuff. I like Reagan and his policies especially from a foreign policy perspective, but pictures of presidents on currency should not be even on the list of things to consider. We have spiraling deficits, millions and millions of uninsured among many other things that NEED fixing and this joker is concerned with whose picture is on our money?

    Reason number 668,092,029,209 to hate politicians.

    March 3, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  19. Independant Thinker

    No, no, no. Not everyone in this country feels like this guy.
    "Trick-L-Down Economics" didn't work.

    March 3, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  20. Lewdog3

    Yeah. With Grover Norquist we got "starve the beast". Google it. He started us on the road to bankruptcy. Three repub presidents and 10 trillion in debt. What a hero....

    March 3, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  21. k

    No. Leave President Grant on the $50 bill. President Reagan's names is on the airport in DC and some other places. Please leave it as it is.

    No disrespect for President Reagan.

    March 3, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  22. michaelam

    A piece of paper with the "Gipper's" face on it only equates to very expensive toilet paper!

    March 3, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  23. BestProfitCompany = WAR

    Let me think about it... HELL NO!! The man who cried that government was the problem. I guess he was right... WHEN HE WAS IN OFFICE. These rethuglicans cry government can't solve anything and they prove to be right when they are in charge of the government. Ronald Regan would be an outcast in today's rethuglican party. His administration raise the nation's debt. If anything he should be in a penny!

    March 3, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  24. JD Oly

    Well the middle class is in trouble if this happens. The $50 bill will have to trickle down to us and since that policy has never worked for our economy and the middle class we better take a picture of the 50's now we will not see any more.

    March 3, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  25. jeff jackson, alabama

    After a 40 year cold war with Russia and
    missle crisis with Cuba and Iran taking
    our hostages, Reagan regained fear and
    respect for America world wide. The Berlin
    Wall came down after his efforts with Russian
    leaders. I know liberals hate him, but I've said
    for years that conservatives have been saving
    liberals since the beginning of time.
    He saved American students in Grenada from
    a Cuban invasion also. I can't think of a
    more deserving President in modern times
    to have this honor bestowed upon them.

    March 3, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
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