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Inside Politics

Dime debate pits Reagan against FDR

From Ted Barrett
CNN Washington Bureau

Roosevelt, left, and Reagan
Roosevelt, left, and Reagan

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Ronald Wilson Reagan
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Democratic Party

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Congressional Republicans are pushing a bill to honor former President Reagan by putting his profile on the dime.

But Democrats intent on keeping the existing image of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt oppose the idea.

Former first lady Nancy Reagan is siding with the Democrats.

"While I can understand the intentions of those seeking to place my husband's face on the dime, I do not support this proposal and I am certain Ronnie would not," she said in a brief statement issued in Los Angeles Friday night.

"When our country chooses to honor a great president such as Franklin Roosevelt by placing his likeness on our currency, it would be wrong to remove him and replace him with another.

"It is my hope that the proposed legislation will be withdrawn," Mrs. Reagan's statement concluded.

Eighty-nine Republicans are co-sponsoring the bill introduced in response to the television mini-series "The Reagans," which one bill sponsor described as "a wildly sophomoric polemic aimed at tarnishing the reputation of our 40th president and his devoted wife."

"The real Reagan, as all but the least impartial observer know, created policies that renewed economic growth, strengthened the resolve of the free world to oppose totalitarianism and restored pride in the United States," wrote Rep. Mark Souder, R-Indiana.

Democrats countered that Roosevelt should stay on the dime because he exhibited "bold leadership" when he took office at the height of the Great Depression," and "lifted the hearts and souls of the country and helped the American people regain faith in themselves,"

Rep. James McGovern, D-Massachusetts, wrote a letter seeking support for a resolution to keep FDR's image intact. So far, 86 members, including one Republican, have co-sponsored that "Sense of the Congress" resolution.

Supporters of both men said each has a special connection to the dime. McGovern argued Roosevelt belongs on the dime because he inspired the March of Dimes effort to stamp out polio after the U.S. mint put the crippled president on the dime in 1946.

And Souder said, "It is particularly fitting to honor the freedom president on this particular piece of coinage" because he was "wounded under the left arm by a bullet that had ricocheted and flattened to the size of a dime."

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