Usually, I open the month with a report on the coin-related legislation from last month. In August, congress went on their summer vacation and did not work on any legislation. There are many who think that given the way congress has done little to nothing over the last few years, this may have been a good thing. When congress returns after Labor Day, there is work on their schedules. While I expect the same level of non-work as before their vacation, there are the issues that have a high probability of being worked on.
H.R. 2722: Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin Act
- 2018 Commemorative program
- 50,000 $5 gold coins with $35 surcharge
- 400,000 silver $1 coins with $10 surcharge
- 750,000 clad half-dollars with $5 surcharge
- Surcharge paid to Breast Cancer Research Foundation for the purpose of furthering breast cancer research
Track this bill at https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr2722
Aside that this would be a swan-song for an a long-serving representative that is retiring, even after the argument about who should receive the money the concept is popular in congress. It is likely to pass the Senate either as a formality or under a suspension of the rules with only a voice vote taken. If there are any votes against this bill, it will be from the senators who have said that they are against using commemorative coins as a fundraising mechanism (see H.R. 3097).
H.R. 1698: Bullion and Collectible Coin Production Efficiency and Cost Savings Act
Track this bill at https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr1698
Back in February, I wrote that congress was being lazy and that as members and their staffs were writing commemorative coin acts, they were copying from old legislation. While this makes it easy for them to deal with, the U.S. Mint has asked that this be changed to save money. Time and again, congress has been told that the U.S. Mint could save money if they standardized gold coins to 24-karat coins and silver to at least .999 fine quality. Aside from making the coins more attractive to more buyers including investors, the U.S. Mint does not have to pay more for someone to “dirty” the metals to create planchets that contain 90-percent of the metals.
This bill should be easy for congress to deal with. It does not spend any taxpayer money and has the ability to add money to the General Treasury. Since H.R. 1698 has passed the House under suspension of the rule (voice vote), it should not have problems in the Senate.
An issue that is likely to be raised that has been a part of a lot of bills is the elimination of the paper $1 note. This came up again when Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was unequivocal about seeing the $1 note retired in favor of a coin. McCain has supported this type of legislation in the past but his going out of the way to emphasize this as an issue makes it interesting. As one of the oldest members of congress, his opinion is a minority of those of his generation. Surveys have shown there is a clear generational divide as to who supports this measure. When, the Baby Boomers (those born before 1964) and those older are overwhelmingly not in favor of eliminating the the paper note. The GenXers, those born 1965-1980, are almost evenly divided while the Millenials, those born since 1980, do not care because they are mostly tied to their credit and debit cards.
For the longest time, the Massachusetts delegation have held these types of bills back. This is because the Dalton, Massachusetts based Crane & Co., the maker of currency paper, has been the exclusive currency paper supplier to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing since 1879. Although Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has become a more powerful figure in the Senate, she does not have the gravitas of a previous holder of that seat, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D). Additionally, with John Kerry now the Secretary of State and other changes in the House, like the retiring of Barney Frank (D-MA), the Massachusetts delegation does not have the same power as it once had. The only power the Senators have would be to filibuster any measure that would eliminate the $1 note. Whether they will do this remains to be seen.