Congress and Numismatics in 2011

by Scott Barman on January 3, 2012 · 3 comments

Legislation

As the 112th Congress gets ready to open its second session, let’s take a look back at the numismatic-related legislation that were involved in the first session.

The characterization of the 112th Congress as a "do nothing" congress can apply to how they have handled numismatic legislation. Of all the bills submitted in both chambers, none have become law. The only bill that was of a concern to coin dealers was Comprehensive 1099 Taxpayer Protection and Repayment of Exchange Subsidy Overpayments Act of 2011 (H.R. 4, Public Law No.: 112-9). The new law changes the provisions in the Affordable Healthcare Act (Healthcare Reform) to eliminate the requirement to file Form 1099 after any transaction anyone makes of more than $600.

Since the passage of H.R. 4, members of the House of Representatives introduced 22 numismatic-related bills and members of the Senate dropped 9 bills into the hopper. None has passed to become law. Of the bills introduced, the House has considered only two bills: H.R. 886, United States Marshals Service 225th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act, and H.R. 2527, National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act. If passed by the Senate and signed by President Obama, both commemoratives programs will be struck in 2015.

In a related measure, H.R. 3512, a bill to amend the Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Coin Act to adjust how surcharges are distributed, was voted out of the Financial Services Committee and recommended for a vote on the House floor. The proceeds from the 2009 Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Dollars was to be distributed to Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation. This bill limits the payment to $2 million and divides any collected excess equally between Ford’s Theater, President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home, and The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Last June, National Public Radio published a story about the $1.1 billion worth of dollar coins being stored by the Federal Reserve. Although the story inaccurately said that taxpayers were paying the storage costs even though the Federal Reserve does not use any taxpayer money in its operations, it caused impulsive reactions by House members looking to curry favor with constituents. Six members evenly divided between the parties introduced bills whose intent was to limit or eliminate production of the dollar coin. These bills are:

  • H.R. 2593, Wasteful Presidential Coin Act of 2011
  • H.R. 2635, COINS Act of 2011
  • H.R. 2760, Presidential Dollar Coin Efficiency Act of 2011
  • H.R. 2778, Dollars and Sense Act of 2011
  • H.R. 2789, Prevention of Wasteful and Unneeded Coins Act of 2011
  • H.R. 2977, Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings Act

H.R. 2977 differs from the other five in that it attempts to phase out the paper-based one dollar Federal Reserve Note to be replaced by coins in three years. It also is the only bill to have more than one or two co-sponsors.

[For related news, also read about the Treasury’s suspension of circulating dollars.]

Two other bills were introduced in December in an attempt to reduce the production costs of the lowest denomination coins. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) along with co-sponsors Timothy Ryan (D-OH) and Patrick Tiberi (R-OH) introduced H.R. 3693, Cents and Sensibility Act, and H.R. 3694, Saving Taxpayer Expenditures by Employing Less Imported Nickel Act (STEEL Nickel Act), to change the composition of the cent (H.R. 3693) and nickel coins (H.R. 3694) from their current composition to use U.S. manufactured steel. While an interesting idea, these bills face a number of obstacles including the vending machine and other commerce lobbies.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) introduced H.R. 1098, Free Competition in Currency Act of 2011, a bill that he says will eliminate the monopoly the U.S. has on coining money and allow others currencies to be used in competition in commerce. Followers of Rep. Paul will recognize this as being consistent with his vision for the country’s future economy.

The rest of the numismatic bills introduced in the House are those attempting to honor various individuals and raise money for their respective organizations. These bills are as follows:

  • H.R. 497, Ronald Reagan Commemorative Coin Act of 2011
  • H.R. 1621, Marine Corps Aviation Centennial Commemorative Coin Act
  • H.R. 1736, Mother’s Day Centennial Commemorative Coin Act
  • H.R. 2139, Lions Clubs International Century of Service Commemorative Coin Act
  • H.R. 2418, National Future Farmers of America Commemorative Coin Act of 2011
  • H.R. 2453, Mark Twain Commemorative Coin Act
  • H.R. 2968, James Monroe Commemorative Coin Act
  • H.R. 3180, U.S.S. Cruiser Olympia Commemorative Coin Act
  • H.R. 3187, March of Dimes Commemorative Coin Act of 2011
  • H.R. 3252, Rabbi Arthur Schneier Congressional Gold Medal Act

When a coin or currency-related bill is introduced in the House, it is referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. The rules of the Financial Services Committee require coin bills to be assigned to the Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Ron Paul. Aside from Rep. Paul’s current status as a candidate for the Republican nomination for president, he is known for not being a fan of using base metals for coins and "wasting time" on commemorative coin bills. In order for members to have the Marshal Service and Baseball Hall of Fame commemoratives referred out of committee, members of Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology subcommittee petitioned the Financial Services Committee as a whole to act on these bills, bypassing Rep. Paul’s objection.

Constitutionally, all legislation that affect the country’s budget must be introduced and acted upon in the House of Representatives. But Senate rules allow for members to introduce companion bills to their House counterparts. Also, senators submit commemorative bills by saying they are to benefit an organization and not the budget. Commemorative bills introduced in the Senate are as follows:

  • S. 431, United States Marshals Service 225th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act
  • S. 889, Mother’s Day Centennial Commemorative Coin Act
  • S. 1181, National Future Farmers of America Commemorative Coin Act of 2011
  • S. 1299, Lions Clubs International Century of Service Commemorative Coin Act
  • S. 1929, Mark Twain Commemorative Coin Act
  • S. 1935, March of Dimes Commemorative Coin Act of 2011

In addition to the commemorative coins, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) with Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced S. 1287, Sound Money Promotion Act. Similar to Ron Paul’s (Rand’s father) H.R. 1098, S. 1287 eliminates all taxes on any gold or silver coin that the federal or state government declares as legal tender.

Finally, not to be outdone by their colleagues in the House, senators introduced bills to eliminate the one-dollar coin S. 1385, A bill to terminate the $1 presidential coin program, and S. 1624, Currency Efficiency Act of 2011. Of note is that Senators Scott Brown (R) and John Kerry, both of Massachusetts introduced S. 1624, most likely on behalf of Crane & Co. of Dalton, Massachusetts, the sole supplier of currency paper to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

In addition to coin-related bills, both chambers introduced a combined total of 22 additional bills recommending the award of Congressional and Presidential Gold Medals to various heroes of our past. These bills are written to allow the U.S. Mint to strike copper medals using the same designs for sale to the public. Those being recommended for this honor include the Civil Air Patrol who served during World War II; the late congresswoman Shirley Chisolm, Lena Horne; suffragette Alice Paul; Raoul Wallenberg; Louis Zamperini, U.S. Olympian and World War II prisoner of war; and others.

The only gold medal that passed during the first session of the 112th Congress is the Fallen Heroes of 9/11 Act (H.R. 3421, Public Law No.: 112-76). This bill awards Congressional Gold Medals posthumously to the men and women who perished as a result of the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. It also authorizes the U.S. Mint to strike and sell bronze duplicates of the medals.

Will the U.S. Marshal Service and Baseball Hall of Fame commemoratives become law? Now that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has ordered a reduction in production of dollar coins, will that doom any of the bills eliminating dollar coins to be permanently tabled committee? Are there any coin and currency bills that will be introduced by members of congress? Stay tuned; the second session of the 112th Congress convenes January 3, 2012, the same day as the Iowa Republican Caucus.

Scott Barman is a collector and author of the Coin Collector’s Blog. When Scott is not playing with his coins, he works as an information security analyst in the Washington, DC area. In between all of that, he can be found with his wife and two puggles while they check out his pocket change.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Munze January 3, 2012 at 5:18 pm

How are coinage modifications handled in other countries? It seems to me that most other places don’t let the pols meddle in every teeny-weeny aspect of coin design and composition. Instead they turn it over to people who are experts in the field instead of hacks trying to make more points with their constituents.

Political wrangling has given us decades more $1 bills, no half dollars, the Jefferson nickel fiasco of 2004, rows and rows of dead presidents, along with commemoratives for every imaginable pet cause and then some. I know that nobody in Washington would ever give up their ability to chime in re how large the font for “In God We Trust” should be, but maybe we can at least imagine some alternate universe where coins are both artistic and efficient – ???

John M January 4, 2012 at 4:47 am

Looking back over the year, the passage of Public Law 112-009 was a fairly significant accomplishment and the numismatic community deserves much of the credit for publicizing just how burdensome the 1099 reporting requirements would be. But it is a sad state of affairs when the only good legislative accomplishment was repealing previous poor legislation. The first session produced nothing else but a plethora of uninspired commemorative coins intended to curry favor with constituents. Congress and the administration remain unwilling to address any meaningful currency reform that might impose a degree of fiscal responsibility. Thanks to Mr. Barman for a good article.

jim January 4, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Congress remains unwilling to do anything for the benefit of the country, only for themselves and their immediate constituents – the country be damned. And the one bill that did make it benefited the dealers. Any bills that benefit the collectors? I think not – they’re not organized to have any kind of lobby to support them and so they get nothing. Again, congress thinking about itself rather than the country.

As for letting “the experts” decide what’s right just look at Canada’s coin offerings. I’m glad we only have a couple commemoratives .a year to deal with and not the plethora that Canada offers. Canada’s mint has degraded to the level of the Franklin mint: making coins that only a few people want and that have no collector or resale value beyond their metal content.

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