By Christopher Bulfinch for CoinWeek …..
Four different commemorative coin bills have been introduced to Congress since the beginning of 2021, which, if signed into law, will create new commemorative coins.
Coronavirus Front-Line Responders Commemorative Coin Act
Introduced to the House of Representatives on February 8, the Coronavirus Front-Line Responders Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 905) authorizes the Treasury to “mint coins in commemoration of the healthcare professionals, first responders, scientists, researchers, all essential workers, and individuals who provided care and services during the coronavirus pandemic.”
The legislation calls for three coins–a gold $5, a silver $1, and a copper-nickel clad half dollar–with designs “emblematic of the sacrifices made by healthcare workers and first responders during the coronavirus pandemic.” The surcharges for the $5 gold coin would be $35, the silver dollar $10, and the half dollar $5 and “shall be promptly paid by the Secretary to the CDC Foundation to support the health care response to infectious diseases and pandemics,” according to the legislation.
The proposed coins would be struck and issued in 2022.
H.R. 905 was introduced by Representative Jack Bergman (R-MI1). It has one cosponsor, Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO2), and was referred to the Committee on Financial Services.
Bergman introduced another piece of legislation, H.R. 1900, on March 16, titled “To require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the health care professionals, first responders, scientists, researchers, all essential workers, and individuals who provided care and services during the coronavirus pandemic.” Rep. Neguse also cosponsored H.R. 1900.
National World War II Memorial Commemorative Coin Act
On February 15, Rep. Marcie Kaptur (D-OH9) introduced H.R. 1057, the National World War II Memorial Commemorative Coin Act. The legislation proposes the same three denominations (a gold five dollar, a silver dollar, and a copper-nickel clad half dollar) as H.R. 905. Surcharges for the coins proposed by H.R. 1057 would be the same as those for the coins proposed by H.R. 905. The surcharges would be “promptly paid by the Secretary to the Friends of the National World War II Memorial to support the National Park Service in maintaining and repairing the National World War II Memorial, and for educational and commemorative programs.”
At the time of writing, H.R. 1057 has 171 cosponsors, 98 Democrats and 73 Republicans. It was referred to the Committee on Financial Services.
Designs of the proposed coins, according to the legislation “[s]hall be emblematic of the National World War II Memorial and the service and sacrifice of American soldiers and civilians during World War II.”
The text of H.R. 1057 describes the National World War II Memorial as “an important symbol of America’s national unity, a timeless reminder of the moral strength and power that flows when free people are at once united and bonded together in a common and just cause for liberty.”
President William Jefferson Clinton signed Public Law 103-32, which authorized the National World War II Memorial, in 1993. Construction of the memorial began in September 2001 and was opened to the public in April 2004.
Last year, privy marks shaped like the National World War II Memorial were applied to a number of coins.
National Women’s Hall of Fame
Two bills were introduced in Congress, one in the House and one in the Senate, which, if enacted, would create commemorative coins honoring the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Both pieces of legislation are titled “To require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in recognition and celebration of the National Women’s Hall of Fame.” The House bill is H.R. 1648; the Senate bill S. 867.
Rep. Joseph Morelle (D-NY25) introduced H.R. 1648 on March 8. It has 73 cosponsors, 65 Democrats and eight Republicans. S. 867 was introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) on March 18. It has no cosponsors.
Text was not available for either bill at time of writing.
Rep. Morelle introduced two bills to the 116th Congress, H.R. 1982 and H.R. 8242, proposing commemorative coins honoring the National Women’s Hall of Fame. The bills were introduced on March 28, 2019, and September 14, 2020, respectively. H.R, 1982 called for three commemorative coins, a gold $5, silver $1, and a copper-nickel clad half dollar.
H.R. 8242 called for a five-ounce silver $1 coin in addition to the three denominations in H.R. 1982.
Surcharges for the coins mandated under both pieces of legislation “shall be promptly paid by the Secretary to the National Women’s Hall of Fame Foundation to establish an endowment fund that will provide long-term financing for the National Women’s Hall of Fame’s operations.”
H.R. 1982 called for the coins to be minted and issued in 2020; H.R. 8242 called for coins to be minted in 2023.
Harriet Tubman Birth Bicentennial
The bicentennial of Harriet Tubman’s birth will be honored with commemorative coins if either H.R. 1842 or S. 697 becomes law. Legislation calling for commemorative coin honoring Tubman’s birth was introduced in the 116th Congress.
H.R. 1842 was introduced to the House by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY5), and S. 697 was introduced by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV); both bills were introduced on March 11. The House bill has 42 cosponsors (33 Democrats, nine Republicans), while the Senate bill has 19 cosponsors (13 Democrats and six Republicans).
Rep. Meeks introduced similar legislation, H.R. 5873, in the 116th Congress on February 12, 2020. The bill called for a $5 gold, a $1 silver, and a copper-nickel clad half dollar coins. The surcharges from the coins’ sale “shall be promptly paid by the Secretary to Project Legacy (Brooklyn, NY) for the purpose of accomplishing and advancing its mission,” according to the legislation.
Cancel the Coin Act
Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced S. 185, the Cancel the Coin Act, on February 2. Its full title is “To amend title 31 of the U.S. Code, to limit the face value of coins.”
S. 185, if signed into law, would forbid the Treasury from minting coins with denominations higher than $200 in an effort to prevent the striking of coins with massive denominations. The specific change to Section 5112 of title 31 called for by S. 185:
(1)in subsection (k)—(A)by inserting having such nominal, or face, values as the Secretary may determine but not in any case exceeding $200 after platinum coins; and(B)by striking denominations; and
“(w)Limitation on face value
The Secretary may not mint or issue any coin having a nominal, or face, value exceeding $200.”
The bill has no cosponsors and was referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
Proposals to strike “trillion-dollar coins” to deal with the deficit came out of the early-2010s debt ceiling standoffs. Facing pressure to control the deficit in 2011, some economists suggested using seigniorage to the country’s advantage by striking platinum coins denominated one trillion dollars; since the cost of producing a platinum coin was minuscule compared to its face value, the difference could be used to pay down the national debt.
The idea gained traction again when debt ceiling negotiations shuttered the government in 2013. The Atlantic published a feature on the subject in January of that year, which explained: “The Treasury would create one of these coins, deposit it at the Federal Reserve, and use the new money in its account to pay our bills if the debt ceiling isn’t increased.”
There is not currently a limit on the denomination of platinum coins. If S. 185 passes, the option of striking a trillion-dollar coin, or any denomination above $200, will be off the table.
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O’Brien, Matthew. “Everything You Need to Know About the Crazy Plan to Save the Economy With a Trillion-Dollar Coin,” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, January 8, 2013.