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. Tony in Maine

    Reagan was no more a great President than was Warren Harding. He was a spokesman for an ideology, a role he learned hawking everything from cigarettes to Boraxo. The real power lay then where it lies now – on Wall Street.

    If conservatives are looking for a hero, they'd be better off choosing the mythical Archie Bunker than the mythical Ronnie Reagan. At least Archie's mean-spiritedness was funny.

    March 3, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  2. CF

    Reagan was responsible for the biggest debt increase in US history. Not to mention Iran-Contra.
    But theres an R after his name so he is considered godly.

    March 3, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  3. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    It was bad enough that the Republicans screwed up Washington National airport by naming it after him. Now they want to screw up our money, too! That's ok. In this economy most people never see $50s anyway! Hey, why not put him on the most counterfited bill in the world – the $100! That way when they hold fundraisers and want cash they can receive bogus Ronnies instead of bogus Bens!

    March 3, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  4. Four and The Door

    We should put a picture of Obama's head on the $1 trillion bill so everyone knows where his head is at.

    March 3, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  5. Dieter Zerressen

    Don't forget consulting a astrologer to set the Presidential schedule, the White House china, "donated designer clothes", ignoring AIDS for 8 years and huge tax cuts for the wealthy that started our ballooning deficits and national debt.

    March 3, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  6. Kevin in Ohio

    @American Patriot March 3rd, 2010 1:28 pm ET

    Sorry, but Benjamin Franklin did more for this country. It would be a shame to replace Franklin

    You are a typical uninformed liberal. Ben Franklin is on the $100 bill, not the $50. Grant is on the $50.

    Maybe the lefties should start understanding history and the founding fathers' TRUE aspirations for this Republic.

    March 3, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  7. Sue

    I think that someone within the Democratic Party should move to put Obama on foodstamps.

    I think that the majority in the country would DEFINITELY support this.

    I don't think that there is anyone who does not believe that Obama would be the BEST candidate for having his face on foodstamps.

    March 3, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  8. Repugnants are Taliban

    Do we really need the biggest joke in American politics other than Sarah Palin on ANY currency? Man did not even know what he was reading his last 4 years in office suffering from Alzheimers, he only read what was put in front of him and drooled on the microphone.

    March 3, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  9. Kevin in Ohio

    @Harley, Las Vegas, NV March 3rd, 2010 1:28 pm ET

    NO WAY! If they're going to put his face on currency, the US treasury needs to make a $1,000 bill just for him. Because if he were still president that's what you'd need to buy a bottle of water!

    Let me give you a history lesson.... Reagan ENDED inflation. The $1000 bill should be reserved for Carter or Obama.

    March 3, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  10. Repugnants are Taliban

    There are only two bigger jokes in American politics besides this clown, GW Bush and Sarah Make Up with No Brains! We do not need CLOWNS on our currency, the country is joke enough as it is.

    March 3, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  11. Keeth in California

    You already changed our nation's airport (Washington) to Reagan Int'l. But you'll never be satisfied until we name everything after Reagan, as in a particular futuristic Simpson's episode where people use "Reagans" instead of dollars as US currency. It's not only absolutely silly to replace Grant with Reagan, it's wholly insulting and undeserved.

    March 3, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  12. a health economist

    I'm with Don. Since many Americans never saw much of the wealth created by the trickle down economics of Regan (by the time it got to them it was only a trickle) put him on a bill that most of us will never see.

    March 3, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  13. Dr_Noo

    Patrick McHenry is another fine example of a wasteful, out of touch congressman. He obviously doesn't know how angry taxpayers are at dimwits like him in DC. They just don't get it!

    March 3, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  14. Kevin in Ohio

    I'm amazed at these comments from left wing hatemongers. They all need to get out of my country, and go somewhere they will be appreciated.... like Communist China..

    March 3, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  15. Al-NY,NY

    Not a chance...of course this will add to the distraction of the GOP from REAL issues that need attention. But since they're not interested in doing anything but ruining Obama's proposals, this is a perfect new angle for them to play. Bill has it right....Nancy the human Pez dispensor was the real voice during RR's presidency. Old Senility only said "yes mommy" and went on his merry, delusional way

    March 3, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  16. Jim in Idaho

    Sure....let's put the guy who sold missiles to that oh-so-crazy Iran, abd used the money to subvert democracy in Latin-America during the Iran contra-scandal on our $50 bill. Let's put a president, six of whose senior staff were convicted of felonies in these matters (though later "pardoned" by Bush Sr.) on some American currency.

    Let's put the guy who maneuevered the Iranian hostage situation to his own political benefit just prior to the 1980 elections on our $50 bill.

    Are you kidding me? Why not just go the pope and demand sainthood for St. Ronald...that makes just as much sense.

    March 3, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  17. Steve

    Lincoln has his likeness on both the penney and a $5 bill, so it would make sense to replace one with the likeness of Reagan.
    I say we should put Reagan on the penney, because it costs more than it's worth.

    March 3, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  18. Charlie in Maine

    Ronald Reagan seemed like a nice enough guy (un-like the rethuglicans
    on the national scene today ) but given the fact that his de-regulation of the banks and dismantling of the new deal lead to the current mess we are i, I don't think it is a good time to associate him with any type of money.

    March 3, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  19. Barbara

    No way!

    March 3, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  20. John

    The only money Ronald Reagan should have his face on is the $1 Million Dollar Bill since his policies were for the rich elite. Oh yeah, for those not so rich, we should put his name on the $3 bill for the right wingnuts who think he did something for them.

    March 3, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  21. Miss Independence

    Just for giggles.. can anyone tell me the break down of parties on the bills and coins?

    March 3, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  22. JohnSantoro

    Is the Congressman from North Carolina pro Reagan or anti Grant? A brief meeting at Appomattox Courthouse in 1865 might have some insight to this Southerners way of thinking.

    March 3, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  23. Dean

    He needs to be on the Three Dollar bill. Oh thats right we don't have one.....

    March 3, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  24. Dysfunctional Palin's Malfunctioning "Palm" Pilot

    Yes, let's honor the daffy, senile, old granddaddy of them all who began this decades-long spiral into deregulation and trickle-down debt economics.

    March 3, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  25. Paul from Phoenix

    To American Patriot:

    Grant is on the $50, not Franklin.

    March 3, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8