Paper or coin? In Congress, a battle over George Washington’s face

Chris Moody
Political Reporter
The Ticket

There is a movement brewing among House Republicans to replace the traditional $1 bill with metal coins, which supporters say will save the country billions because of their longer circulation life.

Arizona Republican Rep. David Schweikert introduced the Currency Optimization, Innovation and National Savings (COINS) Act last week, which would require the Federal Reserve Banks to end production of the $1 paper currency within four years of passage.

"At a time when we are staring down a record-breaking $1.3 trillion deficit, any commonsense measure that cuts billions needs to be given serious consideration. That is exactly what the COINS Act will do and why I am introducing it," Schweikert, a member of the House Financial Services Committee and the Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy, said in a statement.

In a report published in March, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found that replacing paper money with coins would save the federal government $5.5 billion over the next three decades.

But, like every idea that makes its way to Capitol Hill, it's facing stiff opposition.

In the Senate, Massachusetts Sens. John Kerry, a Democrat, and Scott Brown, a Republican, introduced the Currency Efficiency Act, aimed at preserving the paper dollar bill. The reason to stick with the paper status quo, they said, is a simple lack of demand:  Millions of dollars worth of the new $1 coins are already sitting in storage.

"The $1 coin is misleading because it costs taxpayers so much more," Brown said, according to The Hill newspaper. "In fact, we have over $1 billion worth of extra $1 coins sitting idle in vaults, and that's set to double over the next several years."

It should be noted here, however, that Crane & Co, the company contracted to supply the paper used to make American currency, is based in Massachusetts.