Reagan On The $50 Bill? Ohioans Say Not So Fast

Ohio lawmakers say removing President Grant would undermine his achievements.

April 5, 2010, 11:47 AM

April 5, 2010 — -- If Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., has his way, the nation's 40th president, Ronald Reagan may soon be gracing the $50 bill, but some Ohioans -- even Republicans -- are not having any of it.

GOP state Rep. Danny Bubp has requested the state legislator to draft a resolution opposing the legislation by McHenry, which aims to replace President Ulysses S. Grant with Reagan on the $50 bill.

"It is really sad that they're wanting to change this. I don't dispute that Ronald Reagan was one of our greatest presidents, as was Gen. Grant, but if we want to honor Reagan, let's come up with another bill or something like that as opposed to changing the portrait on the $50 bill," Bubp told ABC News. "We just can't go back and rewrite history and demean something that someone did."

Bubp's districts include the counties where Grant, a native Ohioan, was born and raised. Replacing him, Bubp said, would be undermining Grant's work and his accomplishments, and state Democrats agree.

"If you will [it's a] bipartisan effort here" to oppose the bill, Bubp said. "The point is that Ulysses S. Grant was a pivotal individual who made history. ... There's so much the man did."

McHenry introduced the legislation last month. He says it's not about Grant but about honoring Reagan in the same fashion as Democratic presidents.

Franklin D. Roosevelt's profile is on the dime and Kennedy's is on the half-dollar.

"I'm most interested in honoring Reagan and it has very little to do with Grant and so my response is very simple. I believe that Ronald Reagan, as most historians do, was the better president and deserves recognition in every way possible," McHenry told ABC News.

Benjamin Franklin, who didn't belong to either party, graces the $100 bill. Andrew Jackson can be seen on the $20 bill. He belonged to the Democratic party, but at the time, the Republican party wasn't formed.

McHenry's office said public opinion should factor into the decision and as a result, Reagan is frankly more deserving of the currency distinction than Grant. In a statement last month, McHenry cited a 2005 Wall Street Journal poll of bipartisan scholars that ranked President Reagan 6th and President Grant 29th.

"There will always be individuals with parochial concerns," he said. "A narrow constituency shouldn't undermine the broader issues of honoring Ronald Reagan."

John Marszalek, executive director and managing editor of the Ulysses S. Grant Association at Mississippi State University, says not so fast.

"Grant is one of the most popular figures of the 19th century and really into the middle of the 20th century," Marszalek said. "I don't think it would be appropriate to remove President Grant from the American currency. I think the identification is that significant."

Bill to Put Reagan On $50 Bill Irks Ohio Lawmakers

Marszalek said Grant, who led the Union Army to victory during the Civil War and later served as the nation's 18th president, deserves to stay right where he is on the $50 bill.

"I don't think it's a good idea because U.S. Grant was the president who was in the White House at a time when the currency was under tremendous stress because of the Civil War," Marszalek said. "It was his administration that began the process to firm up the U.S. currency that allowed the great economic boom of the late 19th, early 20th century."

Bubp's objection is unlikely to go anywhere in the House, but he said he wanted to go on record as opposing the bill.

"This resolution here is going to say simply we oppose this as a body here in Ohio," he said. "I want to make my voice heard loud and clear."

The prospects for McHenry's bill look doomed also. It would first have to pass the House Financial Services Committee in a Democratically-controlled Congress. A similar measure, introduced in 2005 when the Republicans controlled the House, never made it out of committee.

McHenry said he realizes the bill may not see passage but said his legislation is a starting point and one that supporters hope will gain momentum around the 100th anniversary of Reagan's birth in February, 2011.

"I think we should try to reach some consensus on how we should recognize Reagan in the same fashion we recognize Kennedy and Roosevelt," McHenry said. "I think this should be a central discussion point -- a bill like I'm proposing."

A spokesperson at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing said that, ultimately, it is the secretary of the Treasury who has the authority to change the nation's currency.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events